Via Jim C. Hines's blog, here's a fascinating discussion of kick-butt women as characters and how realistic/unrealistic they are, and about female characters in general. I love that kind of discussion. If I didn't have a headache and if I didn't want to work on this short story I have half-finished, I'd go join in over there.
Anyway, after reading all the comments, I got to thinking about my character Ana in Blood and Taxes. I just finished the book a few days ago and one of the things that bothered me even while I was writing it was that Ana was acting too passive. But when I read the whole thing this weekend and did some light revisions, I realized that's not the case. She is forced into inactivity by the plot, but she's not simply reacting to things outside of her control. She makes decisions--and one of the things I really like about Ana is that when she makes a decision, it stays made, even if she suspects she's wrong--and when the time comes to act, she acts instantly.
But toward the end of the book, she repeatedly has to rely on others to help her--and in every case, the helper is a man. She escapes two different captures with help, is told where the man she's going to rescue is being held, and at the very end, she has to be saved by a friend. That isn't to say she doesn't put up a fight, but she's not a fighter. But I worry that because she has to accept help from male characters, and because she doesn't beat the bad guy up, she'll be perceived as a weak or passive character--which is how I perceived her while I was writing her.
I'm interested in other people's opinions on this. I'm not fool enough to think that woman who doesn't kick butt = weak character, but where do we draw the line between a strong female main character and a passive one? Ana spends a lot of the middle portion of Blood and Taxes going to parties (she's trying to infiltrate a secret society, that's why) and she does a lot of flirting, but she's not a girly-girl or someone who needs a man to empower her. I just don't know where I stand with this. But I'm getting awful wordy here, so I'll shut up now.