Friday, March 4, 2011

Damsels versus Divas

Guess what? I won a prize! Mysti just drew me out of the hat for a signed copy of her awesome book, A Ranger's tale. (Unwritten: And the Winner is... - in case you don't believe me :p. And check her blog out while you're at it). Her signature is going to be worth so much some day... and so will mine ;) Modest as usual.

On with todays topic. I wanted to cover support characters today, but realized I'd be jumping over a hugely popular category of...fictional people. Las chicas! (or the girls as I like to call them)

I'm a female writer (can you tell?), and I believe one of the few who write male MCs. Therefore, the girls usually fall into support. I don't feel guilty about it, seeing as there are so many great books out there written from the women's POV (I write female POV too, but, except for Hunters, they're not really MCs), many enough to do the girls justice.

There are many types of girls in fiction, but I tend to split them into just two:
Damsels - photo credit to the artist

Divas - photo credit to the artist
What's the difference between the two? One has a pretty dress, the other one has a gun (ans also extremely short shorts).

In my writing, I have damsel characters and diva characters. What's the difference between them (except the obvious gun) and what do they mean in my world...


I know you're thinking fairytales. And you're not totally wrong. In my writing world, Damsels are the girls who loved fairytales and wanted a handsome prince of their own. Of course, like all little girls with a pink bedroom, they grew up and became normal girls, able to function on their own and find themselves an appropriate man through good old dating (or trickery of sorts).
Only the dream remained. Once they found their guy, they're more than happy to let him take the lead and pull the reins from behind. Subtly. Who doesn't do that?
Are they weak women? No, they're not. They are strong, confident women, who know a losing battle when they see one and love comfort.


In my YA series, I have two Damsel characters - Christine (portrayed above) and Tina (who happens to be Christine's sister).

Christine is a feisty girl who knows what she wants. She wants a guy, she goes for it. She wants to do something against her father's wishes, she does that too. She is a secret agent... check.
Why is she a damsel then? Because she won't be bothered with anything complicated. She doesn't strive to learn to fight and protect herself. She knows that as long as Sam's there, she'll be safe. When she gets kidnapped, she knows he'll come after her and waits patiently. So she's basically leaving her safety in the hands of a guy because it's more comfortable for her. But it doesn't make her a pushover.

Tina - well, she's a shy girl - the kind who sucked at PE in school. She doesn't want to get into trouble and thinks she'd ward off the danger with wishful thinking. Needless to say, it doesn't work. She's the kind of girl who pulls the reins from behind, even though she appears dominated in a relationship. And can be pretty scary, actually.


No, they are not the female version of a hustler. (Beyonce pun). They are girls who know what they want, when they want it and how to get it. They don't wait around for a guy to do anything for them - they want to do it for themselves (in my case, learn to fight, shoot, go undetected) They want to keep themselves safe.
They are not ultra-conservative feminists. They enjoy male attention, love with all their hearts, help their men and have balanced relationships.


Kay (picture): yes, she's a feisty chick - can shoot and fight and would do anything to help her friends. That doesn't mean she doesn't like being helped, protected and loved.

Angie: escapes kidnapping on her own, shoots, fights and fools people. She also handled herself working the streets in a gang. She's hardcore, but is still saved - a bit impulsive, this little one.

Jessie: knows her place. Deadly fighting skills, a lot of help, saved boyfriend's life a couple of times, but knows when to step back and let the boys work their magic. Not a big fan of being overprotected, but loves the attention.

These girls believe in  looking out for themselves. The guys are just an added bonus. And in a life like theirs (with shooting and kidnaps around the corner), it's an useful trait.

The crossover: 

And here's the part where I create a character who's both. Yes, it is Rachel, the MC from Hunters. At first, she's a damsel, trotting along in Daniel's wake, believing he has all the answers - sure, she fights and shoots on her own, but is a bit overly dependent of him.
Along the way, she starts disagreeing with his views and takes matters into her own hands. Which is just great, since she ends up saving both their butts. And she becomes self-sufficient.  Which is the definition of a Diva in my universe.

As you see from the above rants and examples, there is a very thin line between the two categories, and it all depends on the girl's own psychology. Does she see herself as D1 or D2?

You'll probably think me narrow minded  for focusing on two categories of women, when there are thousands. True, every human being is unique. But in writing, these kinds of ladies tend to say it all.

Personally, I write both divas and damsels. In real life, I think I'm the crossover - going from self-sufficient to let the guy do my work for me, depending on the situation.
How about you? What kind of girls do you have in your writing?


  1. Hiya, Steph.

    I am trying to decide which catagory my MC falls into. At the start, she's 100% damsel. By the end, though, I think she has crossed over. I hope so anyway, as that is the main part of her character development!

    Always a fun read.


  2. Another insightful post! From your description, I tend to see Cali as the diva--she wants to handle herself, but realizes she has to depend on others to help her when the going gets rough.

    Serenya is the damsel. She wants nothing more than to settle down, raise a family, and just be normal. But, as we can see, her life is far from normal.

  3. Good post, Steph!

    hmm, I see Mariah as more of an in-between, but I think she's leaning more towards damsel.
    Lily is 100% diva, as I'm sure you know ;)

    I think most of my other characters are pretty evenly divided :)

    Again, good post :D


  4. My novel has lots of divas. The MC is a badass assassin totally out to get what she wants. Against her is the brutal head of security (female) and several other female characters that you wouldn't want to cross. I can't picture wanting to write a damsel into this story. Just wouldn't fit :)

  5. Hey Steph, thanks so much for your lovely comment on my blog :) And congrats on your prize, woot!!!

    I love how you've categorized the two type of women characters. It's actually clarified a problem I was having with my MC, so I'm off to do a bit more revision *grins*

    Can't wait for your next post!!!



  6. Oops, forgot to say - I love Sarah McLachlan's music!!! :)


  7. Hi Everyone!
    Just wanted to let y'all know that I'm super glad to help you in your quests of writing with such posts.
    And I'm also happy that you don't see damsels as being something bad. I was kinda afraid of that :)
    Thank you all for the awesome comments!

  8. My MC Leigh is definitely a diva. She solves many of her problems with her fists or the threat of her fists. If only all her problems could be solved that way...

    In real life, I'm both a damsel and a diva. Just this morning, I had to have my boyfriend open the milk for me because of the stupid plastic ring around it. I also love comfort. But I have a wicked dark side and can be ridiculously stubborn at times.

    This was a fun post!


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