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5 Disney Heroines Who Aren’t Princesses (But Are Still Awesome)

In the past two weeks, I shared a list of awesome Disney princesses and how they can be great role models for girls. But what about the heroines who aren’t official royalty? Outside of its famous princess franchise, Disney has turned out some awesome female characters who are just as worthy of recognition and a noble title as their royal peers. They may not be official princesses, but they’re still amazing role models!

So to complement the previous list, here are five of my favorite non-princess Disney heroines who girls can still look up to as potential role models. Enjoy, and for the final week of March, Happy Women’s History Month!

1) Jane Porter (Tarzan)

He seemed confused at first, as if he’s never seen another human before. And his eyes were intense and focused, and… I’ve never seen such eyes. – Jane describing Tarzan to her father, Professor Archimedes Q. Porter

Being an environmentalist for as long as I can remember, I’ve always admired Jane Porter from Tarzan as one of my favorite non-princess Disney heroines. Set on understanding and protecting gorillas, Jane jumped at the chance to go on a research expedition with her father to study the animals in Africa, which was a pretty big deal for an English woman living in the Victorian age. She’s intelligent and naturally inquisitive, evidenced by her fascination with Tarzan and her eagerness to teach him everything she can about humans and civilization. Though primarily a zoologist, she is also artistic, being clearly talented with a pencil and paper, and she shows extraordinary courage during the climactic fight to save Tarzan’s family from Clayton’s henchmen. On top of everything, Jane is extremely adaptable, quickly making the transition from being well out of her element in the jungle to feeling right at home with Tarzan and the wildlife that so captivates her. Overall, Jane is eccentric, adorable, and a nature enthusiast who any girl interested in environmentalism and conservation efforts can look up to. Long live the Queen of the Jungle!

2) Nani Pelekai (Lilo and Stitch)

Sometimes you try your hardest, but things don’t work out the way you want them to. Sometimes things have to change, and maybe sometimes they’re for the better. – Nani to Lilo

Nani Pelekai, Lilo’s older sister and guardian in Lilo and Stitch, may well be the most underrated heroine Disney has ever created. After the tragic loss of their parents in a car accident, this young Hawaiian surfer girl was forced to grow up faster than expected and take on the responsibilities of a parent to her little sister at the age of nineteen. She naturally struggles through the process, still technically being a teenager, but where it counts, she always does everything in her power to put Lilo’s needs first. From indulging her quirks to letting her adopt an alien dog just so she’ll have a friend, Nani keeps on going the extra mile to give her sister the happy life she deserves, even when it means forgoing a romance with David (who, by the way, is also awesome) or having to be brave for Lilo while her own heart is breaking. Nani is strong, loving, and completely real, making her an amazing heroine and a wonderful model of sisterly love and the true meaning of Ohana!

Also, for your consideration: ever notice the dust-covered surfboard and trophies in her room, or wonder how she rides those waves so well in the “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” sequence? There are various clues throughout the film that suggest Nani was actually on her way to become a professional surfer before she had to give up her dream to take care of Lilo. Now that’s truly putting family first!

3) Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people. You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help! – Esmeralda to Frollo

A far cry from being a royal, Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a poor gypsy girl living in the streets of medieval Paris, but don’t mistake her low social status for helplessness. Not only can she hold her own in a fight and evade a dozen guards with incredible ease, she’s so enchanting that she gets three men to fall for her—an impressive feat even by princess standards. But feistiness isn’t even the main quality going for her; only too familiar with the feeling of being an outcast, this gypsy woman is easily one of Disney’s most empathetic characters, showing kindness to those who are otherwise shunned by society. For much of the film, she is the only person in Paris brave enough to openly defy Judge Frollo’s cruelty, criticizing his treatment of the gypsy people and standing up for Quasimodo when he’s humiliated by the entire Feast of Fools crowd. The ideal mix of a kind heart with a fiery spirit, Esmeralda is an admirable character and a symbol of justice for courageous girls who are always willing to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves!

4) Megara (Hercules)

Megara. My friends call me Meg. At least they would if I had any friends. – Megara to Hercules

Can you say sassy? The love interest to the heroic title character of Hercules, Megara is just about one of the sassiest characters in the Disney canon. Established as independent and snarky from her first appearance on screen, this Greek beauty is not your ordinary damsel in distress, but in fact a multilayered character with a quick wit and a free spirit. Well, as free as she can be under her circumstances, anyway. Meg doesn’t exactly have the most romantic backstory, having been scorned by men enough times to make her skeptical and dismissive of love before she meets her god-turned-mortal soulmate. Her determination to hide her past and guard her heart behind a mask of cynicism, far from portraying her as cold and bitter, makes her real and relatable. What woman doesn’t know the pain of having her heart broken, right? Still, Meg proves that she hasn’t yet given up on love entirely when she bravely sacrifices herself to save Hercules, which in a way may be the most heroic act in the film, as it allows him to save Olympus from Hades and ultimately have his godhood restored. A soft heart hidden beneath a tough shell, Meg is as strong in spirit as she is sassy in wit and is another great character among Disney’s non-princess heroines!

5) Nala (The Lion King)

He’s holding back, he’s hiding. But what, I can’t decide. Why won’t he be the king I know he is, the king I see inside? – Nala about Simba in “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

Who says awesome female characters have to be human? Nala from The Lion King would certainly disagree! Strong and clever since she was a cub, this lovely lioness is mature, persistent, and highly responsible, never passing up the chance to encourage her best friend’s qualities while defending her own. She acts as Simba’s closest confidante in their childhood and as his moral compass after their reunion as adults; when he’s long given up on his past life, Nala is the one who finds him and urges him to return to Pride Rock to assume his rightful place as king. And yes, Rafiki may have been the one to knock that final bit of sense into him, but would Simba ever have considered going home in the first place without the support of his childhood friend? Probably not! With a spirit as fierce as her roar, Nala is among the bravest of Pride Rock’s lionesses and a venerable addition to Disney’s unofficial royals thanks to her position as Queen of the Pride Lands!

Who are your favorite non-princess Disney heroines? Any other of Disney’s awesome female characters you would add to this list?

Disney Princesses as Positive Role Models for Girls (Part 2)

Remember the list I shared last week about my favorite Disney princesses and their potential status as positive role models for girls? If not, be sure to check it out before you continue reading. If you’re all caught up, here’s the second part of that list, featuring five more awesome princesses I admire as great role models! Enjoy, and again, Happy Women’s History Month!

6) Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell! – Belle

With a live action remake out in theaters now (and starring Emma Watson, no less!), it seems unfair to leave this beloved princess out of the list. Not that I planned to anyway. For a long time, Belle from Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney princess because I identified more with her than with any of the others. Her love of books and her status as an outcast taught me to appreciate being different for enjoying reading more than socializing, which was a valuable lesson to a shy girl who spent many of her school recesses alone in the library. The way she handles Gaston is another quality worthy of praise: while every other single woman in town would kill for a shot with him, Belle sees through his burly exterior to the dimwitted misogynist within and promptly dismisses his advances. Though many have questioned why this bookish princess falls in love with the Beast, it’s worth noting that she never takes his abusive behavior sitting down and only becomes friends with him after he learns how to treat her as an equal. Intelligent, empathetic, and independent, Belle is an excellent role model for every girl who loves to read and who refuses to let any man push her around!

7) Pocahontas (Pocahontas)

My daughter speaks with a wisdom beyond her years. We have all come here with anger in our hearts, but she comes with courage and understanding. From this day forward, if there is to be more killing, it will not start with me. – Chief Powhatan after Pocahontas stops John Smith’s execution

As a little girl who always loved nature, Pocahontas was another favorite princess of mine from childhood. The daughter of a Native American chief, she notably became the first Disney princess based on a real person (however loosely) when her film came out in 1995. Though much of the appeal of her character comes from her connection to animals and the natural world (Colors of the Wind was easily one of my favorite Disney songs growing up!), to me her most admirable trait is her strong advocacy of peace. Even when consequences are dire and war seems inevitable, Pocahontas continues to fight against the hatred around her until she can finally reconcile the Native Americans and the English settlers into a mutual understanding. Another notable quality that sets her apart from other princesses is her decision to forgo romance in favor of responsibility, choosing to let John Smith return to England alone while she stays behind to take her rightful place among her people. Wise in mind, strong in spirit, and empathetic in heart, Pocahontas is another great example of a truly brave princess and the peaceful-minded role model that many girls should look up to today!

8) Rapunzel (Tangled)

Find your humanity! Haven’t any of you ever had a dream? – Rapunzel to the Snuggly Duckling thugs

The release of Tangled in 2010 introduced a spunky new princess to the Disney Royal Court. Famous for her long magical hair, Rapunzel is much more than a simple damsel in distress waiting for a handsome prince to rescue her from her tower. In fact, she has no romantic aspirations at all before Flynn shows up, and even for a long time after that. Instead, this adventurous princess finds a way to save herself from her prison, cleverly (and at one point literally) roping a thief into escorting her across the land and through various adventures all so she can see the pretty lights that have fascinated her since childhood. She even continually proves herself more competent than her escort, saving him more often than he saves her. Though inexperienced and naïve about the world, Rapunzel is brave, kind, smart, and optimistic as they come. With her charming, sunny demeanor that can melt even the coldest heart, Rapunzel is a great role model for any positive-minded girl who aspires to make her dreams come true no matter what!

9) Jasmine (Aladdin)

How dare you? All of you! Standing around deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won! – Jasmine to Aladdin, the Sultan, and Jafar

Aladdin was another Disney classic that I loved as a child. Though the movie does focus more on the title character than the princess he falls in love with, Jasmine still stands out from the beginning of the story by challenging an old-fashioned marriage law in favor of love and happiness. Resentful of her obligation to become Sultana of Agrabah, she turns away stuck-up suitor after stuck-up suitor, refusing to be treated by the men in her life as nothing more than a prize to be conquered. Even when Aladdin comes to her disguised as a prince, she dismisses his shallow advances and only falls for him after he drops his arrogant facade to reveal the good heart underneath. Free-spirited and confident, Jasmine is yet another strong princess in Disney’s Royal Court and a great role model for romantic girls who aren’t afraid to speak their minds!

10) Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars)

Why, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder! – Princess Leia to Han Solo

And finally, here to cap off this list is science fiction’s favorite princess: the iconic Princess Leia of the Star Wars franchise! Yes, I know she’s not an official Disney princess, but ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm, she’s technically been part of the Royals in my book! Well before the Disney Renaissance, Leia Organa was already kicking butt as a leader of the Rebel Alliance, fighting off her enemies and courageously standing up against the villains of the Empire. She’s never afraid to resist or say what she’s really thinking, even when she’s been captured and imprisoned by her enemies. Handy with a blaster and always ready to jump into the fray, this beloved space princess fearlessly proves time and again throughout the classic trilogy that a just cause, however daunting, is always worth fighting for. So here’s to the late Princess Leia and the legacy of strong heroines she helped usher in for future generations! Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. You will always be greatly missed!

Who are your favorite Disney princesses? What other Disney leading ladies would you add to this list?

Disney Princesses as Positive Role Models for Girls (Part 1)

Last week, I celebrated International Women’s Day with a post about six female characters I love and admire as positive role models for girls. While compiling that list, I had an overwhelming urge to include some of my favorite Disney princesses, but since the post was becoming too long, I instead decided to feature these awesome female characters in their own list! Of course, this also turned out to be a long list on its own, so I’ll have to split it yet again! Long live the Disney princesses!

So in no particular order, here is the first part of a list of my favorite Disney princesses and how they can be some of the best role models for young girls. Enjoy, and again, Happy Women’s History Month!

1) Fa Mulan (Mulan)

The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter. – Fa Zhou to Mulan

Ask me who my favorite Disney princess is and I’ll answer without hesitation: Mulan. Okay, technically she’s not a princess (even if she is in the Royal Court), but she’s still one of my favorite Disney heroines ever. From the beginning of her story, Mulan breaks the mold of her highly traditional culture by proving herself different from other young women and bravely taking on the guise of a man in the Emperor’s army. Though she isn’t the strongest or most skilled fighter, she is clever and resourceful enough to scrape through otherwise hopeless situations. Her selfless heart leads her to constantly rescue the people around her: her father, her captain, her army, and even the Emperor himself. Even when she loses her honor and respect simply for being a woman, Mulan gets back up and keeps fighting, continuing to use her intelligence and resourcefulness against the villain until she saves all of China. And she does it all by being herself. Strong in mind, heart, and spirit, Disney’s beloved warrior princess serves as a shining example of some of the best lessons for young girls: never let anyone make you believe you aren’t valuable, women are just as capable as men of saving the day, brains are more important than brawn, and you can be a hero just by being you. In her quirky, badass, and beautifully feminine way, Mulan certainly brings honor to us all!

2) Moana Waialiki (Moana)

I am Moana of Motunui. You will board my boat, sail across the sea, and restore the heart of Te Fiti! – Moana to Maui

My boyfriend and I watched Moana in theaters last December, and I admit I couldn’t stop smiling over how awesome this girl was throughout the entire movie. From learning how to lead her people to embarking on an epic journey to save the entire ocean, Moana is an action girl from start to finish, hardly stopping for one minute until her voyage is complete. Even in moments of doubt and fear, she summons the courage to keep going because she knows in her heart that her quest is about far more than herself. The best part is that she never gets a romantic interest; her relationship with Maui is purely mentor–protégé, and the only love driving her story is her unconditional love for her family and her people. With a brave spirit and a kind heart, Moana is a true heroine and the princess role model that girls today deserve!

3) Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)

The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work. – Tiana

As a longtime lover of Disney’s classic 2D animation, I had high expectations when The Princess and the Frog came out in 2009. I wasn’t disappointed, thanks especially to how much I admired the newest princess in the lineup. Tiana is ambitious, focused, and easily one of the most hard-working characters in Disney’s entire canon. Determined to run her own restaurant since she was a little girl, this goal-oriented woman lives up to her beloved father’s example and does whatever it takes to make her lifelong dream come true, always striving for success by her own means. What really drives the message of dedication and independence home is seeing how she finally accomplishes that goal: even when she snags the wealthy prince (or rather, wealthy in-laws) at the end of the story, she still buys her restaurant with her own hard-earned money and runs a successful business her way, inspiring him to live up to her standards! Turns out Tiana isn’t just a good role model for girls; she’s a great role model for everyone!

4) Merida of DunBroch (Brave)

There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own. But I know better. Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it. – Merida

I admire Disney princesses, I love Pixar movies, and I’m fascinated by archery. So to finally see all three rolled into one with the release of the 2012 film Brave was practically a dream come true for me. Princess Merida of DunBroch is a courageous and fiercely independent young woman – so independent, in fact, that she repeatedly clashes with her mother when it comes to “proper princess behavior”, especially on the issue of marriage. Headstrong and determined by nature, this sharp-shooting princess repeatedly proves she’s willing to do whatever it takes to change her fate, and ends up learning much about herself and her mother on the way. Whether it’s the bravery she shows in her prowess with weapons, the tenacity she shows by taking control of her life, or the intelligence she shows by finally learning from her mistakes, Merida has several positive qualities and a realistic personality that many young women can relate to. Besides, what little girl wouldn’t admire a princess who can shoot an arrow through another arrow?

5) Queen Elsa of Arendelle (Frozen)

Here I stand in the light of day! Let the storm rage on! The cold never bothered me anyway. – Queen Elsa singing Let It Go

And there’s your earworm for the day. Yes, I remember how ridiculously popular Frozen became shortly after its release. Who among us hasn’t heard Let It Go at least a hundred times, right? Though much of the film’s commercial success can easily be attributed to its soundtrack, it has also been praised for introducing a princess—excuse me, queen—who doesn’t get a romantic interest throughout her movie (while her sister, to compensate, gets two). Elsa is clearly independent and selfless, willingly condemning herself to a life of solitude in order to protect her people, yet her struggles with anxiety and fear also make her a well-rounded character to which many young women can easily relate. Her relationship with her sister, however strained for much of the film, is also a model of family love: Elsa distances herself to protect Anna, while Anna goes to astounding lengths to help Elsa. To any girl with siblings, this beloved ice queen and her clumsy yet lovable princess sister teach the valuable lesson of what true love really means!

Who are your favorite Disney princesses? What other Disney leading ladies would you add to this list?

6 Awesome Female Characters Every Girl Should Look Up To

Happy Women’s Day! Because face it, world: you couldn’t exist without us. March has been designated National Women’s History Month, so to continue the theme of celebrating women on my blog, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite female characters ever! There are tons of amazing characters to choose from, of course; it was quite a challenge just to narrow the list down to fit in one blog post!

So to celebrate Women’s Day, here are six awesome female characters that I believe every girl can look up to as a potential role model. Enjoy, and keep being awesome, ladies!

Note: I was originally going to include a couple of my favorite Disney princesses in this list, but the post was already becoming too long. Instead, they’ll be the subject of another post coming soon!

1) Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series)

Hands down, Hermione Granger is my favorite female character ever written. Growing up reading all seven Harry Potter books, I witnessed this beloved character’s transformation from a naïve know-it-all girl to a brave and intelligent young woman. I always admired Hermione for how much she loved reading, and even more so for how skillful she was at applying her knowledge to real-world situations. Her brains and dedication to her studies may have qualified her for Ravenclaw, but her courage and determination prove she was always a Gryffindor at heart! And let’s be honest: this girl was the real hero of the story all along. Do you think Harry and his friends could have accomplished as much as they did throughout the series if Hermione didn’t read so much? It just goes to show: never underestimate the value of intelligence and a good education, because they’re the most powerful tools to save the world!

2) Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

The heroine of Pride and Prejudice is Elizabeth Bennet. She is one of the greatest and most complex characters ever written, not that you would know.

– Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail (1998)

After finally reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time last year, I can honestly say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, thanks in no small part to the fascinating complexity of its female protagonist. Elizabeth Bennet is a remarkable character who, like the author who created her, could easily be seen as very much ahead of her time. While many of the women around her are inclined to marry for convenience (her best friend included), Elizabeth is determined to marry for love. She is clever and quick-witted in conversation without compromising her integrity to impress anyone, which wins her the favor of her proud-yet-good-natured soulmate, Mr. Darcy. Lizzy is observant enough to make quick analyses of people’s characters, yet ultimately proves her real intelligence by overcoming the prejudice that almost costs her true love and a lifetime of happiness.

Smart yet proud, charming yet headstrong, idealistic about love yet critical about people, Elizabeth Bennet is the epitome of a multidimensional character and a powerful role model for women even today. So to all the clever young ladies who can relate, never feel like you don’t deserve to be appreciated for your intelligence. Keep on channeling the Elizabeth Bennet in you, and you may find your Mr. Darcy is just around the corner!

3) Juliet Capulet (Romeo & Juliet)

Painting of Juliet by Philip H. Calderon (1888)

This may seem a strange choice to some, but hear me out. First of all, no, I am not condoning teen suicide nor the total abandonment of family in favor of romance. I know Romeo and Juliet are often criticized as a couple of stupid kids who get six people killed in four days (which is so untrue it’s not even funny), but I’m not trying to praise their totally normal recklessness or their totally justified attempts to break out of a broken system. No, what I really find so admirable about Juliet is her determination to take control of her life in the face of an overbearing patriarchal society.

Remember that Romeo & Juliet takes place during a time when men literally controlled everything, including the women in their lives, which really makes Juliet’s triumphs all the more inspiring. Her family is eager to have her married at the age of thirteen, a thought that has barely even crossed her mind once before the night of the Capulet Ball. She politely agrees to consider Paris as a potential husband while cleverly avoiding committing to him. When it becomes clear she won’t be able to break the rules that bind her to marriage, she bends them to her own wishes by choosing love (Romeo) over convenience (Paris). She handles the aftermath of Tybalt’s death with a much clearer head than Romeo (who at one point tries to stab himself out of guilt), sacrifices her social status and security for love and freedom, and defies the fear that would send her back to her unfulfilling life by (painfully) following her beloved into eternity. Say what you will about Juliet and her Romeo, but you have to admit this girl is a fighter to the very end, a woman who knows exactly what she wants and who will do whatever it takes to have the final say on how she lives her life.

Of course, if you want to see this taken a step further, you should check out the anime series Romeo x Juliet, in which a 16-year-old Juliet Capulet leads a revolution and masquerades as a sword-wielding vigilante known as the Red Whirlwind. Now that’s a strong woman!

Juliet, rightful ruler of Neo Verona, prepares to lead the Capulet rebellion against the evil Prince Montague (Romeo x Juliet , 2007)

4) Jo March (Little Women)

Another book I finally got around to reading last year is Little Women, a recommendation from my mother that I absolutely loved. She told me going in that I would strongly identify with Jo, and being a tomboyish bookworm and writer, it didn’t take me long to see why.

At the age of fifteen in 1800s America, Josephine March is a classic example of a girl who refuses to conform to the expectations society has of her. While her sisters live up to a more feminine image, Jo proves herself independent by constantly rebelling against the limitations placed on women. She reads books incessantly, writes and publishes stories, assumes the male roles in the plays she composes, and openly dismisses the idea of romance in favor of holding her family together. She may not embody the ideals of every woman today, but (at least in the first books of the series) Jo does serve as a model of the independent spirit that all women potentially have inside them!

5) Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games trilogy)

I’ve watched all four Hunger Games movies and recently finished reading the first book in the trilogy, and I have to say that I admired the story’s protagonist from start to finish. Forced to endure a lifetime of hardship and more than one battle to the death from the age of sixteen, Katniss Everdeen is an embodiment of strength, tenacity, and survivalist cunning, not to mention the lengths one will go to for the love of family. After losing her father to a mining accident and watching her mother fade away into depression, this girl took on the role of head of her household and sole provider for her family at the age of eleven and shouldered that responsibility through her entire teenage life. That’s not an easy feat for anyone, especially someone who has to survive two Hunger Games and a revolution along the way. Still, Katniss is a fighter all the way to the end of the story, and stands as a symbol for girls everyone to never give up on defending what they believe in!

6) Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Heck yeah, I’ll say it: I loved Mad Max: Fury Road! Who didn’t, right? Remember how everyone was gushing about it two years ago and it took home six Academy Awards out of ten nominations? It’s already a great movie for its incredible action sequences and wildly thrilling screenplay, but what really made the story so enjoyable for me was the sheer awesomeness of its main character, Imperator Furiosa.

Intent on rescuing the Five Wives of the film’s villain, Immortan Joe, Furiosa sets off on a daring quest across a post-apocalyptic wasteland to deliver them to a promised sanctuary (while Max, in his usual fashion, ends up coming along for the ride). This hardcore woman drives a war rig through the desert, uses great resourcefulness to evade her pursuers, and fights off countless enemies with an impressive arsenal of weapons. Oh, and she does it all with a prosthetic arm. With her endless bravery and cleverness, Imperator Furiosa is a model of strength and skill for women and people with disabilities alike. It doesn’t get more badass than that!

Who are the female characters you most admire? What other fictional female role models would you add to this list?

What If? Writing Prompts: Women I

Welcome to March! Here’s a fun fact: the third month of the year is also known as Women’s History Month in the US, UK, and Australia! It’s the perfect time to celebrate women everywhere, so this month I’m dedicating my blog posts to all those amazing ladies out there, starting with some new “What If?” Writing Prompts in the theme of women. See what stories you can create from these ideas! Good luck!

What if… since the beginning of history, women had ruled the world?

What if… women were always treated with the same respect as men?

What if… people’s biases were never based on gender?

What if… most of the greatest discoveries and inventions in the world had been made by women?

What if… every woman in the world could feel confident in herself exactly the way she is?

Have fun writing your own stories about women!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

3 Lessons from My Father That Inspire My Writing

Last year, I shared a post about the lessons I’ve learned from my mother and how they inspire my writing. Today, I’d like to honor my other greatest role model with the most important lessons he’s taught me and how I apply them to my fiction. My family has played a large role in my life choices as well as my creativity, and much of that is thanks to the wisest man I know: my father!

So this week, I’d like to dedicate my creative writing post to the man who lovingly raised me by sharing three of my favorite lessons from him that inspire my stories. Enjoy, and thanks for the inspiration, Dad!

1) Real men respect women.

There’s a lot of debate around the question of what constitutes “being a man”. Some people measure masculinity through physical strength, others through intelligence or courage, and still others through power or wealth. Many even claim that the only requirement to make a man is a Y chromosome. My dad, however, seems to have his own idea of what it means to be a man. He’s not a big fan of sports (unless you count the tennis game in Wii Sports), he values wisdom coming from anyone, and he considers people who show off their wealth petty and obnoxious. In truth, the only men I’ve ever heard him call “not real men” are those accused of mistreating women.

If I learned anything from my dad, it’s that a real man knows his worth shouldn’t be measured by the power he can exert over women, but by how well he thrives when on equal footing with them. My whole life, my father was the only man in the house (even most of our pets were female!), yet from the respectful way he always treated his wife and daughters, I know any brothers I might have had growing up would be just as chivalrous today. That’s why the male heroes in my stories are always gentlemen who treat their female peers as equals and never look down on them in any way (the same can’t always be said for the villains). It’s a lesson my dad has been teaching me for as long as I can remember, and one I continue to work into my fiction to this day. If I expect to be treated decently by the men in my life, my heroines must demand no less from the men in theirs!

2) Whatever you do in life, strive to be happy.

One piece of advice my dad always gave me and my sisters was to “be happy”. That may sound vague, but what he really meant was that we should always make choices that lead to a positive and fulfilling life, in every possible aspect. Pursue a career in something you love doing. Marry a person – not “man”, “person” – who loves and respects you. Avoid people and situations that make you miserable. Tackle the problems you can solve and let go of the ones you can’t. In a nutshell, every decision must be made with a single clear goal in mind: being a happier person.

So I’ve tried to make choices that benefit my happiness. I’ve pursued writing and science because I love both. I’m in a relationship with someone who makes me laugh and who treats me like royalty. I work hard for the things I want and try to get past the things that make me unhappy (hard as it is much of the time). And I apply the same lesson to my stories: I give my characters clear ideas of what they want in life and the courage to jump through every hoop imaginable to get it. I once wrote a protagonist who was ready to throw everything else in her life away for the one thing she desired. Why? Because she knew it was the only thing that would make her happy.

As a writer, I’ve come to realize my father has essentially been telling me to be the heroine of my own comedy. And as long as I’m willing to pursue happiness above all else, my characters will continue to do the same.

3) A woman’s father is the most important male figure in her life.

Every girl, no matter how many strong women surround her, still needs a man in her life to serve as an example of what she should expect from all the other men she ever meets. Brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and even male friends can provide some insight, but no man is more influential in a woman’s life than her father. He’s the man who raised her, who watched her grow up, who was always there for her (or in many cases, wasn’t). He’s the first man who ever loved her and the only one guaranteed to love her forever. How can any other man hope to compare?

Princess Merida sharing a laugh with her father, King Fergus (Brave, 2012)

More often than not, the way a girl interacts with her father growing up will set the standard for how she interacts with men throughout her adult life. The relationship I have with my dad is one of my most valuable family ties because he’s more than just a cool dad to me; he’s a mentor and a friend. Our bond has made me the woman I am today and has served as inspiration for several father-daughter relationships in my fiction, and his wisdom continues to guide me and influence my stories about family. I’ve learned much from my mother and sisters, but my connection with my father will always be exceptional!

What about you? Have you ever been creatively inspired by your father’s lessons? What sorts of stories or poetry has he inspired?

Today’s post is dedicated to my father, whose love and lessons have always been a wonderful inspiration to me. Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!

What If? Writing Prompts: Love and Peace IV

We’re halfway through February, so let’s continue celebrating the month of love with some new “What If?” Writing Prompts! This week’s set features more prompts in the theme of love and peace. See what hopeful stories you can spin from these ideas! Enjoy!

What if… all human beings were born with the instinct to love everyone?

What if… World Peace became a reality?

What if… all forms of art were used exclusively to cultivate a more positive and accepting society?

What if… everyone went out of their way to help strangers in need?

What if… people were psychologically incapable of feeling hatred?

Have fun creating your own stories about love and peace!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

6 of My Favorite Fictional Couples

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which means many of us creative writers are thinking more than ever about romance (at least, I am). All the talk of love in the air has gotten me thinking about my favorite love stories and the characters who bring them to life. February is the perfect month for romantic inspiration, so it’s no wonder I always take this time to indulge in stories about my favorite fictional couples. To be honest, there are probably too many to count, but I’ve managed to narrow my current favorites down to a few that I’d love to write about!

So to celebrate the upcoming holiday, here’s a list of six of my favorite fictional couples and why I love them. Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Warning: the following post may contain spoilers for Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The Hunger Games. Proceed with caution.

1) Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet

Could I really have started with any other couple? Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet has long been my favorite love story, so much so that I’ve written a post about it every year since I started blogging and even adapted the story into my own novel-length fanfiction (not sorry). It’s a tragic tale of passion thwarted by fate, and it may well be the most famous love story ever told.

Romeo and Juliet started out as lost and lonely teenagers who quickly found meaning for their lives in each other. They defied a generations-old feud through a forbidden love affair, complete with consummated marriage and the determination to be together at all costs. And though they didn’t get the happy ending they arguably deserved, they did immortalize themselves as the star-crossed young couple whose love finally ended years of violence and hatred. Love may not conquer all, but it’s still one of the most powerful forces on Earth!

2) Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger

To anyone who knows me well, it’s no secret that the Harry Potter books have been my favorite series since childhood. I grew up with J.K. Rowling’s beloved fantasy books and have been in love with her magical world for most of my life. Each new book was better than the last, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I reached the second half of the series to find she had tossed the exact romantic subplot I wanted into the mix.

Ron and Hermione had a rocky start to their relationship, even as friends. Every Potter fan who read the entire series watched them grow from disgruntled acquaintances to close friends to jealous crushes to will-they-or-won’t-they admirers to romantic couple to happily married couple. It’s the perfect example of a childhood friend romance gone right, and Rowling couldn’t have done a better job of timing this beautiful love story all the way to its satisfying conclusion. Best friends forever indeed!

3) Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy

I finally got around to reading Pride and Prejudice last year, and I have to say it’s such a delightful story that I’ve ranked it among my favorite books ever. The story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is a complex tale of true love concealed beneath (and often obstructed by) a veil of manners and morality, with a hint of irony to comically highlight the incongruence between a charming demeanor and a good heart. These two are the ultimate proof that when it comes to romance, first impressions don’t matter as much as character, assuming both parties are willing to open their minds to humility and their hearts to the possibility of love where it’s least expected. Jane Austen was truly a master of romantic comedies!

4) Monica Geller and Chandler Bing

Ross and Rachel may have been the star couple of Friends, with their ten-season-long will-they-or-won’t-they story that culminated in a heartwarming “they will” (“I got off the plane!“), but my favorite romance in the series was the far more stable relationship between Monica and Chandler. After hooking up the night before Ross’s wedding in England, these two best friends embarked on a beautiful journey of love that became the saving grace of the show. You didn’t think viewers would hang around for ten seasons just to see Ross and Rachel get together for good, did you?

Monica and Chandler are a classic example of a romantic experiment that worked. While Friends didn’t start with the expectation of getting them together, their chemistry was so great from the earliest seasons that their entire relationship, from friendship to happy marriage, just felt natural and real. Sometimes true love really has been right in front of you all along!

5) Marshall Eriksen and Lily Aldrin

While diehard fans of How I Met Your Mother are still arguing over which couple was better in the Ted-Robin-Barney love triangle (Ted and Robin FTW!), I’m sure everyone can agree that Marshall and Lily were the most adorable pair in the series. Not only were they college sweethearts and each other’s first love, they maintained a loving and (mostly) stable relationship all the way to the show’s conclusion. From engagement to marriage to parenthood, these two continuously took on the challenges of a committed relationship and kept knocking them out of the park. And let’s be honest: while we all waited nine seasons for Ted to finally get to his happy ending, wasn’t it fun to watch Marshmallow and Lily Pad already living theirs? Seriously, cutest couple ever!

6) Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark

I admit it: I was one of the Hunger Games fans who cheered for Katniss and Peeta from the start. Not that I had anything against Katniss and Gale; I just preferred the dynamic between the two characters who were thrown into the Games together. Katniss has a strong spirit, which often manifests as a hardened demeanor and a refusal to show weakness through emotion. Peeta, on the other hand, is considerably softer and more sensitive, though no less strong in spirit than his fellow tribute. Their chemistry not only makes for an interesting relationship but a refreshing departure from the stereotypical “strong man, weak woman” pattern. An innovative love story for the novels’ young adult audience!

Over the course of three books/four movies, District 12’s “star-crossed” duo endure two Hunger Games and a revolution, through which they evolve from acquaintances to allies to a fake couple and finally emerge as a real couple in love. They go to hell and back for the greater cause at hand, but draw enough strength from each other to never lose themselves on the way (at least, not completely). So when these two finally earn their happy ending, you know it’s a love that’ll last. It seems the odds were in their favor after all!

What about you? Who are your favorite fictional couples? What love stories inspire your romantic fiction?

What If? Writing Prompts: Romance VI

Welcome to the first day of February! The month of love has rolled around once again, so why not start it off with some new “What If?” Writing Prompts? This week’s batch features prompts in the genre of – you guessed it – romance. See what love stories you can create from these ideas! Enjoy!

What if… you found your soulmate, but none of your family or friends approved of them?

What if… you were in love with someone who hated you?

What if… people had to rely on the intuition of animals to help them find their perfect match?

What if… marriage for love were banned?

What if… there were no such thing as love stories?

Have fun spinning more tales of love and romance!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

Off The Bookshelf: Pride and Prejudice

Welcome back to my Off The Bookshelf segment! It’s been almost a year since I’ve written a book review for my blog, which is a shame since I do love recommending my favorite novels. The good news is that I read several new books last year and plan to read even more this year, so I’ll have plenty of material to work with in 2017!

So today, I’d like to start off this year’s reviews with my favorite novel from my 2016 list: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Summary

First printed in 1813, Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s second published novel and one of the most beloved works in English literature. The novel follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, an exceptionally clever young woman and the second of a country gentleman’s five daughters, as she navigates issues of manners, morality, education, and romance in the landed gentry society of the British Regency. Among her greatest challenges is dealing with Mr. Darcy, a gentleman with great wealth and even greater pride with whom she repeatedly clashes. As their relationship progresses, both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy come to learn that first impressions are often misleading, and that they must overcome their pride and their prejudices before the story can reach its happy conclusion.

Review

Every so often, you come across a story so well written, so absolutely brilliant that it draws you in from the first sentence and keeps you hooked to the very last page. Such was my experience with Pride and Prejudice, a literary masterpiece from a brilliant mind of the turn of the 19th century. Jane Austen’s novel is still beloved by many readers today, and with good reason: it’s a comedy that covers some of humanity’s most relatable issues – love, marriage, etiquette, wealth, and morals – all from the perspective of an astute young heroine who challenges and overcomes the obstacles of her social position to achieve her happy ending.

Movie poster for Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Naturally, a central theme in Elizabeth’s story is the difference between the superficial and the indispensable, as well as the emotional development that comes with learning to distinguish the two. After all, there’s a reason the novel was originally titled First Impressions. In the beginning, the protagonist has a habit of forming her opinions of people immediately and consolidating those opinions through selective observation, a practice she believes is a credit to her intelligence. As a result, she dislikes Mr. Darcy from the day she meets him and grows to despise him the more time she spends with him, while Mr. Wickham earns her favor instantly with his charm and apparent good breeding. Halfway through the story, however, Elizabeth discovers that her preconceptions of both gentlemen were misplaced, proving that appearance isn’t always the best indicator of worth. The same lesson is learned by Mr. Darcy, who initially believes his proud behavior to be justified but is promptly put in his place by a woman he once thought was beneath him. Fortunately, both these characters prove mature enough to shed their most prominent flaws in favor of the romance that will make them “the happiest couple in the world”. First impressions are powerful, but thankfully they don’t always stick!

Another of my favorite themes of the book is the only-too-familiar contrast between proper behavior and real character. Throughout the narrative, it’s made apparent that while everyone behaves politely, some characters only do so to maintain a respectable place in high society while others are genuinely good at heart. A notable example comes up during a scene in Netherfield: when Elizabeth arrives at the Bingleys’ estate to take care of her sister Jane, who has fallen ill, all three of her hosts smile and treat her with the utmost kindness and hospitality. The second she leaves the room, however, Caroline and Louisa start criticizing Elizabeth’s dirty clothes while Charles remarks on how much she must love her sister to have walked so far on muddy roads just to see her. Even among siblings, people can vary greatly in character, but good manners are universal!

Austen was always an expert at implementing irony and satire in her writing, and Pride and Prejudice is no exception. Being witty and lively by nature, much of Elizabeth’s perspective includes hints of criticism about her reality: the influence of her family’s low income on their social standing (e.g. Jane’s failed friendship with Caroline Bingley), the excessive pride of some of her wealthier acquaintances (e.g. the unintentional insults in Mr. Darcy’s proposal), marriage as a requirement for women to secure a respectable position in society (e.g. Charlotte Lucas agreeing to marry Mr. Collins, a man she doesn’t love). And while the author didn’t necessarily discourage the following of such social rules in her novels, she did present them in a comical light that at least called these societal standards into question.

Overall, Pride and Prejudice is a fantastic novel that I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys clever insights into human thoughts and behavior. For romantics and realists alike, this story has something for everyone and will surely continue to captivate audiences for generations, broadening our perceptions of the societal norms by which we live. To anyone who loves literature, it’s certainly an enlightening and delightfully entertaining read!

Inspiration

Ms. Austen’s beloved novel is one of those classic pieces of fiction that remains relevant long after its time. Though the story takes place in the early 19th century, its themes of social conduct, proper etiquette, and first impressions are still universal in the modern world. Whenever I need inspiration for character development, I know I can turn to an Austen novel for insight on general behavior and the restrictions of polite society to better understand how people think and function in everyday life. Basically, Pride and Prejudice is an excellent example of a point I’ve made in the past: that historical fiction can show us the elements of human nature that don’t change over time.

If you’re a historical fiction author or a writer of stories about the human condition, Pride and Prejudice will definitely be a great source of inspiration for your characters, whether they’re 19th-century country folk, 21st-century city dwellers, or anything in between. The greatest stories are those that explore what it means to be human, which makes it no surprise that this novel always appears near the top of best-books-ever-written lists. So if you haven’t yet, I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and see for yourself what a delightful read it truly is. You may find to your amazement that despite having lived so long ago, Jane Austen can still teach you a thing or two about the ironies of your economic and social reality!

About J.C. Wolfe

J.C. Wolfe is a fiction writer, biologist, and aspiring novelist of science fantasy and romance. A natural-born American and graduate in Marine Ecology from a university in Brazil, J.C. now writes for a living in California while spending free time blogging and penning stories and poetry.

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