Balancing Strong Female Characters with Strong Male Characters By Heather Day Gilbert

Welcome, Heather Gilbert to Just Commonly! 

My novels are quite varied, running the gamut from contemporary mysteries set in West Virginia to Viking historicals. But one thing I believe my readers would agree on: I write strong female leads.

Yes, this may be partly because my main characters carry weapons—in fact, every female main character I've written thus far has carried one, even if it's only a Swiss army knife. It wasn't a conscious decision on my part—it was just how the characters developed. I do have one female lead who doesn't carry weapons that I haven't written yet, but she's still a strong character, so I know that's not the only element involved.

Something else that makes these women strong is their determination to forge better lives for themselves—whether it's my amateur sleuth embracing her in-laws as the parents she never had, or my Viking women sailing to a new continent, these women are willing to take chances and step outside their comfort zones.

My female characters are also strong because they hold true to their beliefs, even though they experience conflict and doubts, just like we all do.

And finally, I think readers understand these women are strong because they're willing to dig deep into their motivations and beliefs and to adjust their approaches to life to keep moving forward—even those who have to wrestle their way out of a pit of depression. These women put their family first, and that makes them strong.

So how do you balance these strong female characters with strong male characters?

One thing I've discovered from real life is that sometimes, as my character Gudrid says in God's Daughter, "the deepest feelings are in the quietest man." Being a strong man (or woman) doesn't mean you have to be bold and bombastic all the time. There are different types of leaders, yet one thing we sense in every leader is presence. The strong leading men I write might not say much, but when they say something, it counts for a lot.

That's not to say I don't write talkative men, too. I have quite a few verbal male characters. Some of my men wield weapons and some wield their words. Some wear their hearts on their sleeve and some hide their emotions, most of all from themselves.

So how do you balance a strong leading female and strong leading male character in the same story? I think the key is understanding the psychology and individual personalities of the couple. Usually in life, we have some things in common with our spouses/significant others and we have some things that are very different. Part of the fun is learning to meld those traits into something that can reach even more people for Christ when we are married.

So I try to portray that melding process, rough edges and all. My male characters might seem weak at the start of the book/series and grow stronger. Same with my females. Sometimes my readers say they are shouting at my characters to straighten up throughout the stories! But they know I am committed to showing realistic people who have to overcome believable obstacles to grow stronger and more secure in who they are.

So how do I mesh strong male and strong female characters? I make sure I show their weaknesses as well as their strengths throughout the story. Even if the reader has a personality nothing like the main character, they can still feel invested in the character's journey because they feel they "know" them so well.

- About Heather-

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather is a graduate of Bob Jones University, and she and her husband are raising their children in the same home in which Heather grew up. 

Heather's Viking historical novels, God's Daughter and Forest Child, are Amazon Norse bestsellers. Heather also authored the bestselling Murder in the Mountains mystery series, the Hemlock Creek Suspense series, and the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher. Find out more at

TO CONNECT WITH HEATHER:  Website | Facebook | Twitter PinterestInstagram | YouTube

- About  Heather's Newest Release-

Title:  Forest Child
Series:  Vikings of the New World Sage, Book 2
Author: Heather Day Gilbert
Publisher:  Woodhaven Press
Release Date:  October 25, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction

Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.

Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate "forest child" of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.

But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland...and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.

In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.



  1. Thanks so much for letting me visit, Annie! I enjoyed thinking through this topic and what makes strong characters!


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