Dark Fantasy stories often feature a protagonist or antagonist of significant strength. When this happens, the character is often counter-weighted by a weaker character, at least in the physical sense. The one that needs protection brings out the strength and soft spot of the stronger characters.
Many stories contain strong male and female lead and/or supporting characters, but can both genders both serve as leads? I haven’t seen that often, especially in mainstream novels like legal thrillers or murder mysteries. While it makes an interesting story to have a strong male protagonist and a strong female antagonist and vice-versa, can it be done and still keep the characters truly equal? Perhaps a better question is can it be done and the characters are equal in strength, that doesn’t necessarily mean physical strength?
We know biology. And while we females can complain about the lack of strong female characters in stories and films (at least this female does), it’s difficult to ignore the fact that men are physically bigger and stronger. And from a completely female-sexist viewpoint, such males aren’t so bad to look at. While I don’t have a problem with strength in male characters, it is a cliché tried and true.
How about strong females? To me, there’s a bit more room for extrapolation due to fewer clichés and a variety of ways to make a female “strong.” The same could be applied to male characters, but for females, unless you’re writing a “manly woman” (Xena the warrior princess) there needs to be something the female has to give her an advantage; special abilities, as I do with Shevata, special intelligence (so not Shevata), and/or a surprise element, showing the reader that a woman is every bit as capable of bravery as any man.
Can a woman be tougher than a man and both are protagonists? I think so, and so do my readers. With my recent review of “The Hunger Games” I think it’s been pointed out in bestsellers. Though I get some criticism for not developing my male characters more, the Gastar novellas are tight, action stories about a single character whose actions are inspired by the supporting characters around her. My mom tells me Shevata always has a male sidekick. Perhaps she’s right; a little backward spin off old “Dr. Who” episodes with an attractive female accomplice isn’t so bad. I agree with Suzanne Collins on that particular point.