May 6, 2011

Writing For Presents: Heroines

I sort of feel like I could go through the heroes post and replace my pronouns. Because, and I’ll give my bottom line away from the get go: It is ALL about character. Character motivation and execution.

Just like heroes, I believe there are very few limitations when it comes to heroines. Sandra Marton writes some very sexually aware heroines who aren’t afraid to get it on in a club restroom if the time is right. Jennie Lucas writes a fabulous rags to riches heroine. Lynn Raye Harris is the queen of the stylish, Prada clad heroine, who looks darn good and doesn’t need a makeover.

They are individuals. Funny, quirky, sexy, innocent, or not innocent. And they behave that way because of where they’re from, what life has handed to them, and how they’ve chosen to deal with those things.

Just because a heroine is disadvantaged, does not mean she’s a doormat. In fact, as Presents does have VERY strong heroes, Presents heroines have to be able to stand up and meet them as equals. How they do this is going be as unique and varied as the characters themselves.

I truly believe in the importance of balance in a couple. The stronger my hero, the stronger the heroine has to be for me to be able to execute it properly. Some authors use that balance in almost the opposite way. The fragileness in a heroine might force the hero to change tactics. But either way, it’s not her getting run over.

The heroine is key in so many ways. She has to have the power to come into this big strong alpha man’s life and truly upset it. She has to be able to affect change in a man who is probably pretty set in his ways.

I think heroines in general, not just in Presents, and not just in romance, can descend into cliche easily. Again, it can seem like the thing to do (and in the first version of my first book, I was very guilty of this) is to work off that checklist.

Lips that are too full? Check. Breasts that are too large to be fashionable? Faints at the sight of the hero? Check check.

Well, if that’s your heroine and you know why she behaves that way, I would never put out a blanket ‘that’s wrong’ statement, because I don’t know how you’ve set her up as a person.

My famous example is in the first version of His Virgin Acquisition when Marco kissed Elaine in the limo, she ‘gave a cry’ and my editor asked me why she’d done that. Was it just because I thought she should, because I thought that was what A Heroine would do?

I thought about it. Yes. Yes that was why I did it. In the final version I believe she tells him ‘I’d invite you up, but darn it all, I have a headache.’ That was MUCH more in line with her character, with the person I had SAID that she was.

It’s not enough to simple say your heroine is smart, and feisty, and independent. She has to demonstrate that she’s those things through her actions. (This completely applies to ALL characters)

Ultimately, it’s about making a believable heroine, whose actions, reactions, feelings about sex and her body, and the hero’s body, fit in with the person you’ve created her to be. A heroine who knows she’s kind of a hottie, and who doesn’t have a lot of inhibition, might not bother to cover her breasts while she’s sitting in bed having an argument with the hero. A different heroine might feel the need to pull the sheets over herself, because the change in tone to their relationship makes her feel too exposed.

The important things is that she’s written in a way that she feels three dimensional, and real. A heroine who can stand strong, find love, and stand, at the end, as an equal with her hero.


Comments

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  1. “It’s not enough to simple say your heroine is smart, and feisty, and independent. She has to demonstrate that she’s those things through her actions.”

    That is a key thing to me. If your independent heroine had given a cry, I might have thought she was a bit dim. Or worse not that sure of herself. I see that in books so often. I’m okay if a heroine isn’t spunky or independent. It can be really wonderful seeing a shy, timid character learning how to stand up for herself when she really needs to.

    But if the author keeps telling me the heroine is so smart and then she keeps making stupid choices, it becomes hard to care what happens to her.

  2. Julia, I totally agree. And like I said, I’ve been guilty of that. I think it’s much easier to tell something enough times, so many times even you believe it, than it is to really put those things deep into a character.

    And yes, when someone tells me a characters is ‘smart’ then she acts continually stupid…well, I’m lost because she’s no longer belivable.

  3. Knowing your characters intimately is probably the best advice I’ve ever received for my writing. Without that, the foundations of the story falls apart. You want the reader to suspend disbelief for a couple of hours, not to be trying to figure out the actions of the heroine and wondering if another coffee will help make it clear! 🙂

    Great post, Maisey x

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