Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about characters and what makes them so important and interesting in the stories we consume. Characters are a crucial part of the adventure. We get to know them, we sympathize with them, we love to hate them, and we follow them to the ends of the earth. When I think of my favorite characters, two jump out at me right away: Ella of Frell, from my favorite book of all time Ella Enchanted, and Hermione Granger, from my favorite series of all time Harry Potter. These two fantastic female characters epitomize what it means to be a strong and valuable character.
Strong characters—especially strong female characters—are massively important in stories and novels. For readers of all ages, admirable characters are essential to make an impact. To readers of Young Adult and Juvenile, where stock characters are all too common, strong characters can make an impression to last a lifetime, as Ella and Hermione did for me.
When I say “strong” character, I don’t mean physical strength in the sense of a heroine or hero beats their foe in combat. I mean well written, engaging, innovative, and surprising. They can be energetic, thoughtful, adventurous, imaginative, or anything else under the sun—they just have to matter and they have to be able to transform not only the story, but the reader.
I can’t remember how old I was when I read Ella Enchanted for the first time, but I do remember that I was completely captivated by Ella and her persistence. She was a character that was loving yet headstrong, small but strong-willed. She was everything that I wanted to be and someone, though fictional, that I could read about again and again and never tire of. Ella set high standards for female characters, in my eyes, and no other character was a close rival until I met Hermione.
Hermione was a book worm, she was bullied, she was lonely. But, she was also intelligent, loving, and loyal. I saw so much of myself in her, I couldn’t help but love her. As I read more and more about her, I knew that she wasn’t just Harry Potter’s sidekick. She was smart yet unsure, brave but scared at the same time. Hermione, like Ella, was a strong character that withstood the hardships of her journeys and became a character that the book world needed and wanted.
People don’t often pay attention enough to the strong characters that we need. While ones who are heroes in a battle are important, too, those who are not are that much more important. They show readers that interior strength is incredibly valuable. In a world where the one dimensional and narrow focused Bella Swans and Zoey Redbirds exist, I’m glad that we also have the Ellas and the Hermiones who make our stories so much better.