Creating Characters That Don't Need Saving

The damsel in distress doesn't have much of a leading role, these days. And neither does the solitary, badass, physically strong female character (Although she pops in to say high more than her distant cousin). The macho strong male that swoops in to save the day isn’t seen much around anymore, either.


Is there more to strength than just being tough and callous and ready with the perfect snarky comment? I answer that question with a resounding, hell yeah, there is!

Broken characters given moments to shine is much more popular, which I am eternally grateful for. Give me an underdog character to root for, any day of the week.


I want you to stop and think of someone you consider to be a strong person. It doesn’t have to be a female. I know just as many strong males as I do females. Go on, close your eyes. Now, picture that person.

  • What about them makes them strong?

  • Are they physically strong?

  • Do they never show their emotions?

  • Do they always show their emotions?

  • Do they continue to help others, even though they’re always taken advantage of?

  • Are they a single parent doing everything themselves?

  • Do they always get right back up after they’ve been knocked on their ass?

  • Are they continually selfless?

  • Are they resilient, despite all the bad stuff that’s happened to them?

  • Do they always see the bright side in situations?

See? There is way more to being strong than muscles.


Strength has to do with your mental and emotional ability to handle situations--to either breakdown and shutdown, or to rise above it and try to overcome a problem. And I don’t mean right away. Sometimes, it takes a while to get to that place of overcoming.


Sometimes (and I include myself in this), you have to go through your emotional process before you’re equipped and able to handle the situation. And that’s okay. That’s a type of strength, as well.


And even though I’m talking about strong female characters in this post, these points are easily transferable to male characters. Because, let’s admit it, the concept and definition of strength doesn’t change when gender does.


The primary definition of strength is:

“The quality or state of being physically strong.”

And while this is true, the second definition is more accurate, in my opinion:

“The capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.”

There is more to strength than being able to dead lift 200+ pounds. There is:

  • Mental strength

  • Physical strength