A Padawan’s Journal, Entry #35: Forceful Women

movie_haircuts_13It all started with Princess Leia, of course—the long line of heroic women from the Galaxy Far, Far Away. When we first meet Leia, she is a grainy holographic image that is somehow clear enough in its basic outlines (ahem) to capture Luke Skywalker’s … er, imagination: he must be the One to go off and rescue the damsel in distress.

Yeah, right.

Poor Luke can be forgiven, I think, for assuming that Princess Leia required rescuing when he met her in her dim and dusky holding cell. In her pristine white gown with her infamous cinnamon bun hair-do, our princess looked winsome, sad and quite helpless … until she opened her mouth. Then it became glaringly obvious that the tiny princess had some serious moxie. She was small, but mighty, indomitable, smart, fearless and she could wing it with the best of them (the best of them being Han Solo). As it turned out, she also had the Force and liked nice scoundrels, which was enough to blow Han Solo’s doors off. (“Judge me by my size, do you?” could have just as easily come from her lips as Yoda’s.)

Okay, I’ll admit it. Leia is still my favorite Star Wars heroine.starwars_carriefisher_3

My top three fave Leia adventures were 1) The rescue of Han Solo from Jabba’s place, 2) her nifty disposing of the dear Hutt with the ties that bind (as we noted in Wastin’ Away On Tatooine, “But on the last refrain, Jabba choked on a slave chain. Never piss off a girl in a thong.”) and 3) her rescue of Han’s posterior at the shield generator on the Endor moon, resulting in the classic reversal of the “I love you/I know” lines from Empire.

The princess went on to become a Jedi and the mother of Jedi. Most important, she fired the imaginations of writers and fans alike. The Force is an equal opportunity employer. The GFFA is also a place where even “mundanes” not gifted with the Force can make a name for themselves. The second set of movies gave us Padme Amidala, not a Force-sensitive (although there has been some speculation…), but a darned resourceful lady, notwithstanding her questionable taste in men.

The women folk also shine pretty brightly in the Star Wars books. Michael Reaves has been responsible for the existence of a number of these Forceful women—Darsha Assant of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter who forfeits her own life to save others from the Sith assassin; Barriss Offee a Padawan without a Master, working in a Medstar unit in the Clone Wars; Laranth Tarek, the green Twi’lek Force-adept who’s got Jax Pavan’s back (and his heart, as well). I was fortunate enough to write about Laranth in Patterns of Force, and I can safely say that writing a character endowed with the Force is different than writing a “normal” female character even in the egalitarian multi-culture of the GFFA.

As you may have guessed, the novel currently known as Holostar has at least one female protagonist and not one Jedi. What’s the difference? What a Jedi may be able to accomplish through clever application of the Force, a “mundane” character must do with cleverness alone. Remember, we’re not talking about holding down a day-job and spending weekends online or at science fiction conventions the way normal folks do. We’re talking about extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. We’re talking about situations in which a slip of the lip or a false step might result in a one-way ticket to the Great Beyond.

Indeed, one thing most of the heroines of Star Wars have in common is that they must throw themselves head first into whatever harrowing situations we writers dream up for them. Leia and Darsha, Barris and Laranth all had the Force to fall back on, to wield and to channel. The ladies of Holostar have their own talents, make no mistake, but employing the Force is not one of them. Which means that we have to find ways to make them especially brave, clever and vivid. We need to give them their own pools of knowledge, unique talents and secrets that will intrigue you and keep you turning the pages.

Next time: Zoology, or what if your hero needs a dog?

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A Padawan’s Journal, Entry #35: Forceful Women — 1 Comment

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