Killing Rumer author Joshua Winning’s guide to writing a badass heroine

Author Joshua Winning writes about the strong, complex heroines who inspired his latest novel Killing Rumer

The definitive guide to being a badass heroine

My idols have always been women. You know the ones. Sarah Connor. Ripley. Gale Weathers. I grew up with Buffy posters on my wall and stacks of Alien videos/DVDs/Blu-rays on my shelves. As a gay teenager stuck in a tiny town, I related with the struggles of these complex women, who often faced crazy-cracker odds but never gave up. Always fought the good fight. Even when they lost loved ones/limbs/the faith along the way.

When it came to writing my own heroine with my book Killing Rumer (which, PLUG ALERT, is available for pre-order here), it’s perhaps no surprise she turned out to be sarky, twisted and quietly vulnerable. Rumer Cross takes shit from absolutely no-one. Attitude is her weapon. Affection is her kryptonite. But Rumer’s street smarts only get her so far, which is why, in Killing Rumer, she finds herself completely out of her depth, but never (some would say stupidly) jacking it all in.

In celebration of the badass heroines who inspired her, here are the qualities that my favourite strong, complex women in sci-fi and fantasy possess…

Speak your mind

Nobody ever got anywhere by holding their tongue. When Jessica Jones has something to say, she goddamn says it. A true heroine will always value her own judgement and let those around her know exactly what she’s thinking, even if it makes her unpopular. That said, a little delicacy never goes amiss – you don’t want to end up in an insane asylum like Sarah Connor.

Take risks

Life’s a flea-bitten old dog and sometimes you have to be the one to give that pup a good scrub. Uh, which is a convoluted way of saying: woman up and do what’s got to be done. Did Furiosa flinch when she ditched Immortan Joe in order to track down her family? Don’t think so.

Do your own fighting

Look, you don’t have to be a black belt in Tae Kwan Do like Sarah Michelle Gellar, and nobody’s telling you to go axe shopping, but if you believe in your cause, you better be willing to fight for it. Both metaphorically and physically. Dr Ellie Sattler used her smarts to take down the raptors in Jurassic Park. On the flipside, Ripley was surrounded by Marines in Aliens, but she still strapped on a Pulse Rifle and a flamethrower and single-handedly took down the Alien Queen.

Don’t be afraid of femininity

James Cameron recently commented that heroines should be “tough and troubled”, but that’s ridiculously limiting. Heroes come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and temperament. Case in point: Wonder Woman. She doesn’t wear army fatigues or other masculine signifiers because she knows that women are strong. She completely embraces her womanhood and, for her, there’s no contradiction between ‘hero’ and ‘woman’. Femininity, love and beauty aren’t weaknesses. Own them.

Make enemies if you have to

Playing nice is all well and good, but if somebody’s standing in your way, you have every right to hit them with the door. Gale Weathers never had a problem with rocking the boat. Sure, her methods are questionable at times, but she’s fundamentally good (when she’s not clawing at headlines that further her career), and doesn’t care if you like her or not. “You better check your conscience at the door, sweetie,” she tells her cameraman in Scream 2. “We’re not here to be loved.”

 Killing Rumer is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Pre-order your copy here and get your name in the book as a thank-you.