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I read that it’s approved of to have the protagonist to have deep relationships which I mean as friend-related bonds between people - because it makes the character stand out

I’m asking this based on Question 10 on JoWritesStuff.wordpress.com about ‘Strong Female Characters’

How does she relate to other female characters?

I get that that makes them more real in some for, but I want to really understand why this is a big deal?

The website analyses characters who are good or bad, they all have up to eleven questions to prove if they are potential

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Q10 is How does she relate to other female characters?

I think you misunderstood the question. One form of a weak female character is one that exists for men; is portrayed as, and acts as if, her only purpose in existing is to be pursued by men, to get married, to have children, to be sexually attractive to men or desired by men.

If a female character only talks to other female characters about men (finding men, understanding men, being rejected by men, being persecuted by men, hoping to be rescued by men, how to please men, or alternatively she only views other women as competition for men, to be defeated), OR about traditional "female" duties like children or housekeeping, she is not a strong female character.

For heterosexual males, consider the same-sex relationships you have: At work, in business, with friends, with charity or activism, in commerce with suppliers, even in politics: that have absolutely nothing to do with sexual attraction, fashion, trying to be pretty or trying to make friends or influence people.

One would think it obvious that women will have pretty much the same same-sex relationships; i.e. with other women, that have nothing to do men in their life, nothing to do with fashion or hair or makeup.

Although one would think that would be obvious, many male writers seem incapable of imagining these other relationships for heterosexual women.

The question is asking, does the female character relate to other female characters as if they are real people, or are their interactions limited to the roles sexist MEN define and allow for women?

The other questions are similar: Does she influence the plot (without getting captured or killed)?

If the plot is that a woman is captured and the man rescues her, she is a passive character being treated like an object, she could just as easily be a gold crown that got stolen. If the plot is she gets murdered and the man is out for revenge, her only purpose in the story is to motivate a man to action.

Strong female characters think for themselves, act for themselves, and don't define themselves exclusively in terms of what the men in their life want them to be. They are not objects to be acquired or won, and their "success" is not defined by whether a man wants them or marries them. It is defined in the same way a male protagonist's success is defined, they save the day, or save the world, or prevent disaster, etc. By their own agency.

Edit: Consistency

Saying a characters is "consistent" is tricky, because they may be consistent in always trying to please the person they happen to be with; which externally may make them seem inconsistent. For example, a person (man or woman) may agree with their boss about some political issues, but with their friends express the opposite view. In the voting booth they can express yet another view, the one they truly hold, when nobody can see them. Is that person consistent? Yes, they will lie to please whomever they happens to be with.

Consistency with some internal true state is important, and that can be shown through relationships and how the character treats other people (or even animals; e.g. a person may treat a dog or cat with kindness or cruelty).

It can be shown through non-personal reactions as well, but in the end most of our character is about moral decisions and these generally relate to how we treat other living things that can feel pain or despair. Even theft is not so much about the object stolen, but about the person(s) deprived of it. For example if you are walking outside and find a $20 bill in the street with no obvious owner, pocketing it is not considered a theft by most people, while taking $20 off an empty table in a restaurant would be.

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    How do relationships show characters are consistent? – Edmund Frost Jul 11 '18 at 20:10
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    I know I'm going out a little on a limb here, but isn't this answer equally valid if you substitute "man" for "woman" and vice versa throughout? In other words, it's not so much about gender roles or "female characters" per se, as it is about characters' depth; with fleshed-out characters that actually serve a purpose to the story preferred over flat, one-dimensional characters that are only there to serve one specific purpose within the story and nothing else. – a CVn Jul 11 '18 at 20:34
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    @MichaelKjörling Yes, it is valid, but there is no cultural bias against strong male characters, and males are very seldom used as nothing but sexualized props for women. Even the notion that a woman would pursue a man only because he's physically attractive and she wants to have sex with him is contrary to culture. The opposite is true for females, many stories considered "good" are "cinderella" or "rapunzel" or "sleeping beauty" stories, where the female's only real asset is sexual attractiveness and the man does all the work to mate with her. (euphemized as "beauty" and "marry"). – Amadeus Jul 11 '18 at 20:50
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I heard an ingenious little explanation for why characters always seem to have either a best friend or many strong friends around them. This applies primarily to movies or TV shows but also to books where your point of view (POV) doesn't allow you to get inside your character's head.

We all have an inner voice, which is like a verbal running commentary on all and sundry, that exists inside our own mind. What this inner voice does, generally, is give advice, weigh up options, complain about family, worry about the future, rehash what happened in the past, bitch about authority figures etc. etc.

The thing is - it's not easy to show this inner monologue in movies, TV dramas and books without a close POV, so a device had to be invented to cope with these situations. The result? Yep, you guessed it: friends!

Instead of showing characters talking to themselves, the writer can instead portray them talking things through with their friends. Therefore, the reason that a protagonist must have deep relationships, i.e. friend-related bonds with other people is that it is a device for them to be able to discuss things in a more naturalistic way than sitting alone in their flat, mumbling to themselves over a microwave meal whilst (ironically) watching a re-run of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Good luck with your writing.

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I started this as a comment to @Amadeus's excellent answer, but it kept growing and I decided to turn it into an answer.

One form of a weak female character is one that exists for men; is portrayed as, and acts as if, her only purpose in existing is to be pursued by men, to get married, to have children, to be sexually attractive to men or desired by men.

If a female character only talks to other female characters about men (finding men, understanding men, being rejected by men, being persecuted by men, hoping to be rescued by men, how to please men, or alternatively she only views other women as competition for men, to be defeated), OR about traditional "female" duties like children or housekeeping, she is not a strong female character.

I'm going to cherry pick two women I personally know, let's call them Ann and Zoe.

Ann lives to catch the perfect man, be the perfect mother-wife (while still working because 'status') and show off her perfect family and life. She talks A LOT about men, hair, clothes and jewels; she sees every other woman who as much as looks at her 'targeted catch' as an enemy to be humilliated; and her life seems to revolve around looking sexy and showing off how men pursue her.

Given the wrong perspective, Ann could be portrayed in a story as the poster child of the weak female character who lives to be pursued by men, especially because most of her conversations revolve around men and looking sexy for men.

Given the right perspective, she's a strong female character who has a purpose in life and works hard to achieve it. Does she have a shallow personality and acts like a bitch? Definitely. Is she happy? All the women I know who have also spent time with Ann swear she isn't. But being happy or having chosen a poor purpose in life doesn't mean Ann can't be portrayed as a strong character in a novel.

How can one show Ann as a weak or a strong character? One way is precisely through her relationships to other characters, especially female characters who are sometimes so fed up with her obssession, they call her out on it. Female characters who are either taken in by her show of grandeur, are suspicious of it or can barely put up with it for more than ten minutes in a row. Or female characters who see her for what she really is and either keep their distances or use her obssession to manipulate her.

These relationships would allow the reader to see how she works to achieve her purpose (and thus how she has agency of her own) and how, nevertheless, her world truly revolves around herself, with 'pursueing men' being merely a measure of her own success.

Ann may be seen as a 'weak person' by the reader, due to her choices in life, but not necessarily as a 'weak character'.

As for Zoe, she's the poster child of the traditional housewife, except that she has to work. Her world revolves around her children and her husband, she's one of the few women I know who shines with happiness at the prospect of having parties at home - and she prepares most of the food, she cleans it all up afterwards, and she's still beaming with happiness over the whole thing.

Given the wrong perspective, she's a weak female character who gives herself up for the sake of her family.

Given the right perspective, she's a strong female character who chose an outdated purpose for her life and who is constantly fighting to be the wife and mother she has always dreamed to be.

How can female relationships show that she is a strong character? Well, they'll allow the reader to see that if Zoe revolves around her husband and children, it's because that is what brings her happiness. Despite those friends who criticise her for putting herself last, who drag her away from her family for a girl's night out (and switch off the phone so her husband doesn't get the chance to play the hapless guy around their toddler).

Again, Zoe may be seen as a 'weak person' by the reader, due to her choices in life, but not necessarily as a 'weak character'.

The relationships shine a light on what makes the characters tick, on their wishes and desires. Even if they are fulfilling traditional, old-fashioned female roles, the relationships these characters have with other women allow the reader to see why they chose those roles and how they fight to achieve their goals. They do not sit and wait for things to happen, unless they see it is A) a proof of their power over their admirers, or B) a sacrifice they make to be what they think they should be.

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