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Enola Holmes and Good Female Characters

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So I watched Enola Holmes. And, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t expecting that much — no shade to the writers, producers, and actors! I just figured it was going to be teenage adventure movie with a Strong Female Protagonist that was likable enough but fell into the Epic Girl Who Can Kill a Man Using Her Little Finger trope. Which can be a fun premise, but I’m kind of tired of it, you know?

And that wasn’t what I got. I mean, it wasn’t a flawless movie, and sometimes the message did feel a little on-the-nose.

But the protagonist. THE PROTAGONIST.

*Ahem* What I mean is, I really liked Enola, and I think she’s a great example of how to write a good female character (really, just a good character in general).

And now I’m going to tell you why, hopefully with only some fangirling. Let’s do this. Spoilers ahead!

She is Unique

The first thing I want to talk about is how Enola Holmes is her own character. She doesn’t fall into that typical “strong female character” archetype, but she’s still both strong and an amazing character.

Enola is distinctive. She’s competent, but she’s also goofy. She’s brave, but we see her afraid often. She loves puzzles. She can handle a lot, but she’s not made of stone. She reacts to things emotionally a lot. She is herself — she’s not a message or a character type.

That’s what we writers should give our readers. Not a stale, overused character type, but a fully-fleshed out individual. Which is hard (for me especially), but we can do this! *waves pompoms*

She is Human

Enola may be an exceptional teenager, but she’s still a teenager. And she acts like one. She cries when things go wrong or when she’s upset. She gets mad. She gets frustrated. She gets scared. She’s raw, to the point where sometimes it’s almost painful to watch her (mostly because I want to hug this small child, but that’s not the point).

She’s flawed as well. She can be brusque and a bit of a know-it-all. She makes mistakes and doesn’t win every battle. That’s important, because which one of us flawed humans wants to follow a perfect character? Certainly not me!

We as writers need remember to make our female (and male!) characters people. Give them flaws and fears. Let them fall down and make mistakes. Let them ask for help. Let them cry. Let them be themselves.

Doing this gives your story more weight. If readers believe your girl (or guy) protagonist never loses a battle, they’re never going to worry about her. If nothing ever seems to bother her, it’s going to be harder for them to feel for her when bad things happen. If she doesn’t feel human, why should they care about her?

She is Realistic

Enola isn’t superhuman. Sure, she can fight and such, but she’s still an approximately 120lb. teenage girl. If she goes up against a fully grown man (which she does), she’s at a severe disadvantage, and the movie makes sure to show us that. We see Enola losing, we see her being afraid, and then we see her use her brain and her skills in order to defeat someone stronger than she is. And I… I just love that.

I felt that fight between her and one of the villains in a way I haven’t felt a movie fight before because it was so realistic. It was scary, it was intense, and it made me afraid that she was going to lose. And that made the moment when she triumphed so much better.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Some stories might be served by a female/male character who seems superhuman or who is literally superhuman, but otherwise, we writers should make a point of showing our readers that the characters they are following (whatever their gender) are like them — at least to a point.

We should make them real. Because, personally, I think those are the characters that are the most powerful to read about and grow to love.

We Write People

If you find writing female characters hard, just remember to make them people (which is, oddly, kind of difficult — with male and female characters). Make them individuals, with their own flaws and struggles. Let them fail. Force them to face their weaknesses and use their strengths to overcome them. Create characters that are so human that readers realize that they could die. Make them so real that they jump off the page and into your readers’ hearts.

The Enola Holmes movie wasn’t perfect, but, darn it all, it knew how to make me love Enola, root for her, and feel for her.


5 thoughts on “Enola Holmes and Good Female Characters

  1. YES! I’ve never watched Enola Holmes, but the message is great! My favorite authors are the ones with the most human characters – or if not human, personal, lol 🙂 It’s personality – reactions and thoughts and feelings and choices that have the same kind of consistency – and inconsistency – that’s present in real persons, that really attracts me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly!
      Also you should definitely watch Enola Holmes — it’s a fun ride and it’s good beyond just Enola as a character. Sorry, I just have to push this movie. I tend to try to drag people into my fandoms LOL =D

      I’m really glad you liked the post. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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