June 14, 2013

The Challenge Of Crafting Heroines

By Becky Wade

The heroine. 

She's the one your female readers will become inside the pages of your novel, the one they'll sympathize with, cheer for, and cry with.  She's also the one that will cause your readers to throw your book against the wall in frustration and disgust if she's not well crafted.  Which begs the question.   How does an author craft a heroine well? Or, maybe more instructively, what are the...
Characterization Pitfalls to Avoid With Heroines
1.      Saintliness If only the answer to crafting a good heroine was goodness!  But it's not.  Perfection is distancing because it's not relatable.  Readers can't identify with heroines who always think, act, and speak in idealized ways.  Your heroine needs areas of weakness, fears, and insecurities.

2.       Selfishness.  Saintliness will put a reader off of a heroine, but so will selfishness.  For a heroine to grab a reader's heart, she must be sacrificial instead of self-focused.  Just as your heroine needs flaws, she also requires sterling characteristics like bravery and intelligence.

3.      Masculinity If you're a male writer, you may need to work double hard to ensure your heroine doesn't read as blunt, straightforward, and unemotional.  Women are complex and intricate -- just ask any man who's married to one.  No matter how tough your heroine might be, she should also be feminine right to her core.

4.      Foolishness I once heard someone sum up good characterization and good plotting this way; "Your heroine should make every decision your reader would make in the same situation, and STILL get into worse trouble."  Too often, I read the opposite.  Authors are quick to force their heroines to do something ridiculously foolhardy for the sake of their plot.  For example, they'll send their heroine dashing off alone down a dark alley at midnight to rescue a friend.   They'll force their heroine to set off into a blizzard to deliver a message.  Don't do it!  I know these sorts of situations set up opportunities for drama and give the hero a chance to ride to the rescue.  They also give your reader a chance to drop kick your book, and then tell all her friends not to bother buying it.  Honor your heroine by working harder as an author.  Make her smart!  Have her call 911 instead of dash down the alley.  Have her tie a rope to the front porch before she sets off into the blizzard.

5.      Clumsiness.  We want our readers to laugh with our heroines, not at them, so avoid humor at your heroine's expense.  Beware of showing your heroine tripping and falling, choking on a chicken bone, swinging a broom and accidentally hitting another character in the face.  No reader wants to become a woman who chokes on a chicken bone.  Should your heroine have a sense of humor?  Yes!  Should you use physical comedy when depicting your heroine?  Ever so sparingly.

Wishing you all the very best as you strive to create winning leading ladies!

What do you find particularly challenging about the writing of heroines?  Particularly joyful?
As a child, Becky Wade frequently produced homemade plays starring her sisters, friends, and cousins.  These plays almost always featured a heroine, a prince, and a love story with a happy ending.  She's been a fan of all things romantic ever since. Becky and her husband lived overseas in the Caribbean and Australia before settling in Dallas, Texas. In the  years abroad, Becky's passion for reading turned into a passion for writing.  She published three historical romances, put her career on hold for several years to care for her kids, and eventually returned to writing sheerly for the love of it.  Her first contemporary Christian romance, My Stubborn Heart.She authored Undeniably Yours,   Becky can be found failing but trying to keep up with her housework, sweating at the gym, carting her kids around town, playing tennis, hunched over her computer, eating chocolate, or collapsed on the sofa watching TV with her husband. Her WebSite: Facebook:

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