What makes a strong female character? The details matter, regardless of gender. Characters should be multifaceted. The problem is we often see the stereotypes, the lowest common denominator. Female characters are often the mother, girlfriend or love interest and not much else.
You can use the Bechtel-Wallace Test as a guide. With this test, you ask if a work of fiction presents two female characters who talk to each other about anything other than a man. The test is helpful in finding better represented female characters, but it is flawed and limiting.
A strong character not only reacts to what going on around her but is also proactive and a main character is instrumental in moving a plot forward.
Well written characters are fully realized humans, not just cookie cutter impressions.
Although Stranger Things focuses a lot on the four main preteen boys, there’s also a great number of fantastic female characters. Let’s look at what makes them so special.
Eleven: The Wild Card
The one we all secretly wish to be.
Eleven is our obvious hero type, but she also displays a sweet childlike innocence due to her lack of knowledge of the real world.
Eleven is strong not just because of her powers, but her depth. Each episode reveals more about her.
She has a complicated parental relationship with Papa and Hopper. Her search for family brings her to the boys, Hopper, Mama and Roman’s gang.
She is also a little bit scary. Her power, and willingness to kill, make her a very potential bad guy if she had only stayed with the Hawkins Lab. Since she escaped, she has learned a great deal about the world and what to appreciate.
Joyce: The Detective
Joyce is wonderful because we finally get a TV mom worth watching. Her detective skills in two seasons show she is willing and capable to do anything to save her son.
Although she skirts insanity, talking to Christmas lights and chopping into a wall like Jack from The Shining, Joyce is instrumental in saving Will.
Nancy: The Warrior
She easily could have been the damsel in distress. Instead, we learn Nancy will do whatever it takes to get answers and justice for Barb. We also see Nancy as one of the only characters capable of taking up arms against the Demogorgons.
When Hopper asks one of the boys if he can handle a shotgun, Nancy confidently takes it from him instead. She may be freaked out by what has gone on in the town, but she’s not hiding from the fight.
Max: The New Girl/Zoomer
Season Two introduced Max as the new girl in town, there to rival the boys at the arcade and in their friendship.
She’s a bit of a cool girl stereotype, but she has her development. Her troubled household has caused her some bitterness. She has an inner battle to fight.
We didn’t get quite enough of Max’s character but there is a lot of potential for her in Season Three.
We only see Terry in a flashback and catatonic in the present day, she was a formidable force in her time. She shows a conviction in pursuing her child years after her abduction. There may be more that Terry could teach us.
Roman: The Rebel
The introduction of Roman answers the question we had since the beginning: Are there others like Eleven?
She is the child who fully rebelled against Hawkins Lab. She is brutal in her retribution, but also has a soft spot for family matters, just like Eleven.
Although her moral compass could use a tuneup, Roman provides the emotional stimuli Eleven needs to beat an ultimate foe.
“What’s the trick to writing a great female character? Make her human.” — Nicole Holofcener, director and screenwriter of Lovely & Amazing and Friends with Money.
Just because you’re writing a female character doesn’t mean the character development stops at that extra X chromosome. Our entertainment is so much more engaging and meaningful when the characters are better written.
Writing Better Female Characters