Oh boy, oh boy! Or maybe I should say oh girl... We're talking about heroine's on the blog today and I'm pretty excited. Following my thoughts on fictional romance and my obsession with happy endings, I thought I'd take a look at the people behind both of those things: her and him.
Where can I start with this? It's a huge topic, I realize that, but I thought maybe I'd do a few pros and cons that I've come across in my fictional escapades. This is not a complete list and I haven't done research (um, unless you call reading a ton of books research?). I do think it comes down to who the author sees their characters as too, but these lists are more for taking a look at what makes up an amazing heroine...and what doesn't. I'll use examples where possible of characters I've loved or not-loved, but again it's not all inclusive.
1) She's strong
I'm not talking about the super-human-strength type of strong (though maybe, if it's speculative fiction). I just mean she's got strength of chracter. A heroine that grabs my attention when she's got something worth fighting for (ha! see what I did there?)
2) She's brave
Bravery looks different in different characters. I honestly can't stand a heroine who is whiny. I get that women can be delicate and afraid of things--totally okay--but I can't sit through reading a book where she never finds some inner (or outer) strength. An example of a heroine who isn't like this is Kelsea from The Queen of the Tearling. She's not your typical "beautiful" heroine, but she's brave and smart.
Getting into the thoughts of a heroine (or hero for that matter) is probably one of the most connecting things a writer can do with their reader. When I see into a characters thoughts (whether in first person or third) I know them. I know their fears, their motivations, their likes and dislikes. It's personal. That is also why it's sooooo important to give your heroine a unique perspective. (tweet this) It's a tenuous line to walk between getting annoyed at her (*cough*Twilight*cough*) and loving her (*smile*These Broken Stars*smile*).
4) She's got issues
Okay, this one comes with a major warning. It is possible to have too many issues. We're talking about the girl who never gets it right and who is completely down on herself. All. The. Time. That's not what I mean. I think what I love to see is a girl who has real struggles. I think Cinder in The Lunar Chronicles is a great example of issues that are real, but not over done. We can relate to her insecurities but admire her for pressing on despite them.
5) She overcomes
There is nothing more satisfying than a heroine who overcomes the obstacles that are in her path. (tweet this) I mean, this is the time where you jump up and down and shout out for her. You think--I could be like her--because you see that, despite the issues she has, she is someone who overcomes. Some good examples of this in my opinion are Mare from Red Queen, Parvin from A Time To Die/A Time To Speak, or Bilquis from The Legend of Sheba.
That one girl...NO!
1) She's annoying
Well, obviously this would be a problem. How can you read through an entire book when the heroine get's on your nerves. I've mentioned Twilight, but though I really liked the Hunger Games series, there were times when Katniss really got on my nerves. I felt that way a few times with Matched and City of Bones. Not enough to stop reading, but it was something I did take note of.
2) She's weak
Yeah, I can't do this. Again, I'm not saying she needs to be able to leap tall buildings or lift a car or something, but her weakness needs to come from a real source, possibly her background or something, and then it needs to be proven false or overcome. To let a character exist in her weakness for long periods of time creates a mundane cycle that we as readers can't escape. (tweet this)
Gah. Anyone else feel me on this one? Yes, I know girls are emotional (I am one) but I cannot stand the repetitive cycle of thoughts and emotions that spiral downward. She should be affected. She should have dark times. But if that's all we see of her, she's one dimensional in her emotions.
4) She's got issues
Yes, same as above. But it's true. If she's got too many issues, we are only focusing on her issues. This could work for a women's fiction, but even then I'd say there must be more to the plot than her issues. The outward influences on those issues will be a factor. Her relationships will be a factor. You get the point...
5) She's flat
A heroine needs to be vibrant. (tweet this) She needs to be the reason we pick up the book again and again (ok, the hero can be that too, but work with me here). This is even more important if the book is mainly about her, her characterization needs to be strong enough to give us a good sense of who she is but not so narrow that it alienates others from connecting with her. That's a tall order, but I've seen it done well. Make her vibrant. Make her real.
So there you have it. Some of my yes and no moments about heroines. As much as I love a fantastic plot (and I would say this is a requirement for me) I also love fantastic characters. They really do make or break a book for me, but what about you?
Now it's your turn for honest thoughts: What do you like/not like about heroines? Give some examples of heroines you loved and those you didn't like as much.