Portraying strong women authentically is tricky. Most of the time, I find strong female characters are caricatures of an extreme: the dim-witted blond, the stock-in-trade man with boobs, the femme fatale. These are stereotypes sure, but what they really are is extreme examples of real life. Can you find an example from history of a female warrior in a male-dominated society – sure, but she’s an outlier. If you want to write an outlier character that’s fine, but let the traits that make her an outlier be the source of her strength not her ability to wield a sword.
Let’s look at a real-world example, Malala Yousafzai. She’s a strong woman, but is she strong because she survived a bullet wound to the head? Yes, partly, but moreso she’s strong because of the choices that led to her being targeted, and the friends and family who empowered her to follow her heart.
Are you able to portray women without these extremes that’s both likable (or at least worthy of cheering for) and surprises readers? That’s the tricky part.
For some time now I realize that very often the book cover varies significantly from the story of a book. Quite pronounced it shows in the genre ‘Historical Romance.’
Now, don’t get me wrong! I don’t mind that much! Unless of course, the story tells us of a golden-haired beauty and the cover shows a black-haired gypsy woman I often don’t care.
I’m not complaining about anything within the book! Very often Historical Romance tells us a story of two loving people in the medieval times, being pushed into an arranged marriage by society and their families and falling in love for the first time. Blessings to them! Falling in love is an exquisite feeling and should be enjoyed.
Let’s see: When I researched for this blog post, I have seen the U.S. covers of some of Virginia Henley’s older books and liked them a lot. By continuing the research, I discovered the German book covers of Virginia Henley’s books and laughed loudly.
Oh – no! Not what you think! I love them. They’re beautiful, they’re artistic, they’re intriguing, and they’re sexy. Just what I’d been expecting of the story. – But they don’t show anything historical in the lady’s dresses as they were around 1300 when the stories are supposed to take place.
Within the story, Virginia Henley talked about wide, flowing robes, made of light and beautiful fabric, unique and sexy, showing the women’s ‘ripe breasts’ and feminine curves.
Let me show you what I’m talking about:
Now, seeing these wonderful dresses on the cover pictures and carrying these images through reading the romance makes the fun twice as nice. Seeing the beautiful sexy ladies and the strong muscular, handsome men and reading about their eternal love makes for an enjoyable time.
At this point now I have to be fair and add that I don’t ‘blame’ Virginia Henley for anything. She’s a great writer, and I enjoyed reading the few books I have from her.
But I’m afraid, right now I have to ruin our dreams of sexy medieval ladies in wide hot high slit dresses of silk and purest sensuality.
The sad truth is that medieval ladies in their gowns looked more like this:
I figure every nun dresses sexier than these medieval ladies. But I as well understand that it would be a little, let’s say, ‘difficult’ for a lady to show yourself as being enormously sexy in a dress where the man of your dreams has to peel you out of that very same dress like an onion.
When it comes to reading a medieval historical romance book, I’m the first one to admit that looking at a book cover like this wouldn’t tickle my ‘need’ to buy that book in the first place, let alone read it.
On the other hand, seeing a book cover like this below and feeling like reading a steamy historical romance would make me buy it immediately.
Now I’m curious: When it comes to historical romance or historical fiction, what do you think? Are we, as writers, permitted to add a little fantasy, a little imagination and a little cheating when it comes to the fashion – either on the cover or within the story? Or should we be very strict in sticking to facts? Please let us know your opinion in the comments.
Leaving the poll up a few more days! You can vote more than once so please do.
If you know anything about pirates, one of the most important matters aboard a ship is that all crew members get a vote on everything relating to ship business. I’d like to apply the same principles here for the naming of my newest pirate ship. She’s captained by a fearless and ruthless pirate, who goes by the name of Black Eye Woodley, in my forthcoming novel, Jaded Tides. However, this fine upstanding gentleman and his equally as ruthless cast of colorful characters aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They’ll definitely be sailing straight through into my next installment in the Razor’s Adventure Series, so keep a weathered eye on the horizon mates!
I’ve chosen my favorite suggestions from all of the posts here on my blog, as…