The enduring WOMAN

Hermione Granger to Annabeth Chase, Katnis Everdeen and Daenerys Targaryen may be the stars in today’s bestsellers, but names like Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Darcy ( Pride and Prejudice ) or Emma , Scarlett O’Hara ( Gone With The Wind ) or Emma Bovary ( Madame Bovary ) have endured over the years for their strength of character, whether as heroines or anti-heroines. Literature has always brought forth admirable women and, some for their beauty, some for their wit, some for their strength, some for the lessons they taught through their mistakes. But most of all, they are remembered for being who they were, and their writers, become as much heroes of their stories, remaining in the hearts of their readers.

Anita Nair

Three female literary characters who inspired me were – Elizabeth Darcy from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice ; Scarlet O’Hara from Gone With the wind and O’lan from The Good Earth . All of these three characters were strong, resourceful women and in many ways ended up being my role models. They were not extraordinary women in any sense. But they coped as well as they could and rose about everything destiny sent their way. Naturally, in them, I saw the women I would like write about: Women who deserved to be written about.

Shikha Malaviya

The story always comes first for me. However, while growing up, I was always attracted to strong, independent, female characters who were honest with themselves and the worlds they inhabited. I loved Nancy Drew, Heidi, Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time , and Margaret from Are You there God, It's Me Margaret . As an adult, the female characters I encounter in literature are so complex. Their strength and tenacity come through in how they tackle life. Celie and Shug from The Color Purple come to mind, along with Hanna, the nurse, from The English Patient , Janie Crawford from Their Eyes Were Watching God , and others.

I like all these strong female characters because they exude a certain strength and ingenuity in tackling problems that come their way. Literature often mirrors real life and these characters show us ways in which to handle different situations. They offer both solace and inspiration. I think an amalgamation of all these characters feed into my writing. One wants to add to this beautiful portrayal of feminine strength, empathy and intelligence, by creating female characters that aren't necessarily perfect, but that have depth and purpose.

Andaleeb Wajid

Emma Graham from Hotel Paradise , by Martha Grimes is one of my favourite characters. Emma Graham is a 13-year-old inquisitive girl who wants to investigate the death of young girl forty years ago in her town. Her precociousness never jarred to me as a reader and I instantly wanted to write about a character like her which got me started with Kite Strings , my first novel. The main protagonist in Kite Strings is Mehnaz, who is also 13 when the novel begins. The similarity ends there though but I loved how Martha Grimes (a famous mystery writer) could switch gears so easily and write about a different kind of mystery, one that involved growing up and coming of age. Emma's refusal to let her circumstances rule her life and her tenacity is something that I really admired.

Anjum Hasan

Mine is Flaubert’s Madame Bovary . My character Sophie Das in my novel Neti Neti is somewhat obsessed with her too! Emma Bovary is a touchstone for Sophie. She wants to model herself on Emma – someone who follows her heart, is a romantic. But she also realises that Emma is self-deluding and self-destructive. I love what Carlos Fuentes says about how Madame Bovary is the daughter of Don Quixote. Like him she believes what she reads and she goes out into the world to apply the precepts of literature and falls flat on her face!

Shashi Deshpande

I've been an admirer of Jane Austen since I was a young girl. I think she's a writer who very casually, almost playfully, broke with the traditions. Earlier novels had the sweet good heroine, or there were the Gothic romances. Jane Austen wrote about real people. The Bennets who had five daughter who had to be married. Emma who was beautiful and clever and thought she could control people's lives. Jane Austen was amazingly observant and knew people inside out. Imagine a girl of 21 writing about a marriage like she did in Pride and Prejudice . And the first chapter of Sense and Sensibility is sheer genius. Besides, she is a wonderfully witty writer. At least three of her novels are perfect — Pride and Prejudice , Emma and Persuasion .

Shinie Antony

Griet of Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier is almost a member of the family, with my daughters and me reading it at least twice a year. The circumstances that turn her into a maid, interactions with the master of the house and why she pierces her ear are all poignant. Then there are Sue and Maud from Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith who fall for each other through such adventures. And Marguerite Duras’ autobiographical voice in The Lover is exceptional.