Strong Women of Sci-Fi – Lyta Alexander from Babylon 5

This week I’m going to highlight one more strong female character from science fiction – and I have to discuss my favorite sci-fi show ever, Babylon 5. For anyone who’s watched Babylon 5, you would probably agree that the two main female leads – Susan Ivanova and Delenn – are strong women. But as much as I’d agree with you, and as much as I’d like to discuss either of those characters, I’m going to talk about the character of Lyta.

Lyta Alexander from Babylon 5

Lyta is a telepath, and she initially serves as the diplomatic aide to the enigmatic Ambassador Kosh of the Vorlon Empire. Throughout the story of Babylon 5, the Vorlons – at first allies, then enemies, but always mysterious – alter Lyta’s telepathic abilities. She becomes stronger than average telepaths, and by the end of the series she reveals that the Vorlons had intended to use her as a doomsday weapon in their war against the Shadows.

I believe that Lyta is a strong character, but unlike Delenn or even Ivanova, she has a negative character arc. At the beginning of the story she starts out “good,” as it were – she’s a good person, she wants to do the right thing, she readily sides with the Army of Light. But through both circumstances and her own poor decisions, her character arc descends from the positive to the negative. By the end, she is hated and feared by her friends, and she herself has become belligerent, distrustful, and a terrorist. Continue reading

Strong Women of Sci-Fi – Sam Carter, from Stargate: SG-1

This is the next post in my “strong female characters” series. Last week I covered the fantasy genre (technically YA fantasy, I suppose, because I wrote about Aravis from The Chronicles of Narnia.) This week I’ll switch to sci-fi, and I’m going to switch from books to TV. (I know, shame on me).

But even though I’m a lover of books and a writer of novels, TV shows and movies are great story-telling mediums, and highly important to our modern culture. How women are portrayed on the screen is perhaps even more important than how they’re portrayed in books, because that visual medium is more pervasive.

And again, true to my penchant for not covering the newest and hottest thing, I’ll be discussing a strong female character from an older TV show. And by “older” I mean the early 2000s. So, old but not that old.

Sam Carter from Stargate: SG-1

I’m not sure if I should preface her name with “Captain,” which was her rank at the beginning, or “Colonel,” her rank by the end of the 11 seasons she was on, or “Doctor” (as in Ph.D.) Samantha Carter is one of the four headlining characters of the interstellar travel team SG1; she and her compatriots (her commanding officer in the Air Force, a nerdy archeologist, and an alien warrior – all three men) travel around the galaxy fighting bad guy aliens and saving Earth repeatedly. Classic sci-fi premise.

Traditionally, science fiction is not always a genre in which women really take the forefront as complex and valuable characters (some notable exceptions are Princess Leia from Star Wars, and Lt. Uhura from classic Star Trek). Those women are the exception rather than the rule; many women in sci-fi (if they’re even in the story at all) wind up being either the “hot space babe” or the “tough chick with the ray gun.”

Samantha Carter is neither of these. So what are some of the elements that go into making Sam a strong female character? Continue reading

Strong Women of Fantasy – Aravis, from The Chronicles of Narnia

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about Glinda the Good Witch (and other female characters) from L. Frank Baum’s Oz series (the books, not so much the Wizard of Oz movie). I discussed why I thought Glinda was a strong female character – an actual woman of strength, not just a tough, masculine character in a woman’s body.

In today’s world, readers and movie-goers want strong, well-rounded female characters in their stories, not just beautiful damsels in distress or rough-and-tough chicks who want to be one of the guys. There are a lot of popular characters right now that I could point to for my examples, but instead I’m going to continue with the thread started by Glinda, and discuss not only a lesser-known character, but a not-so modern one.

Aravis of Calormen

Aravis Tarkheena

Aravis Tarkheena

The Chronicles of Narnia (written a good 60+ years ago, in case you didn’t know) features several strong female characters, most notably the sisters Lucy and Susan Pevensie, who with their brothers, first find their way into Narnia via a wardrobe. Continue reading

An Interview with your Character

There are so many tips, tricks, and exercises to help a writer with developing their characters. I’ve written a couple of posts about that myself.

One technique that I recently learned is to answer questions about your character as if they were being interviewed. To really get into our character’s psyche, try answering these questions in first person, in your character’s voice. Write it out, and be sure to use your character’s speech pattern, mannerisms, everything. How would your character respond if someone in the story were asking them these questions?

Some of these questions would be most applicable to a human character in modern day, but I’ve tried to make some of them general enough to apply to fantasy/historical/sci-fi, etc.

So your character sits down to answer these interview questions. What does he or she say?

What’s your favorite band?

Who’s your favorite athlete or favorite sports team?

Do you have a Facebook or Twitter account? Why or why not?

What makes you laugh?

Are you right-handed or a lefty?

What’s your favorite hobby?

Do you have a nickname? Are you proud of it or embarrassed by it?

Have you ever killed anyone?

How many countries have you been to?

If you could permanently change one thing about your physical appearance, what would it be?

Feel free to share some answers or dialogue exchanges! What are some other interview questions that could help with character development?