October 5, 2020

DiAnn Mills ~ Creating Strong Heroines

DiAnn Mills                  

Whether my source of entertainment is a novel, a movie, or a vibrant play, I want to experience a strong heroine. This is true for all readers. Who wants to get involved in pages and pages of a weak, whining woman who never changes or grows and needs (usually a man) to rescue her? Readers want to slip their feet into the glass slipper of experience, and that means providing them with a superior adventure.

I write romantic suspense, and a strong heroine is essential for all my novels. But this type of woman is critical for all genres. She’s fixed in my mind long after her role is finished. I want to be her! This enigma challenges me to understand what makes her credible and likable.

When I believe I have a handle on her personality, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, the real work begins. We writers long to develop a complex heroine who has wit, gumption, and incredible skills while being totally feminine. A tough project! But not impossible if we’re willing to acquire the necessary skill set. So how do we writers expand our cardboard characters into those women who step off the page? The following are ten ways to expand a female character into a heroine who leaves a dynamic legacy. That also means readers will return again and again to our books. We’ve succeeded in entertaining them to the best of expectations.

1. Build a heroine who has a credible backstory that motivates her into action. Show how her past experiences grew her mentally, physically, and spiritually, propelling her into a remarkable main gal. She’s the true heroine in chapter one, line one.

2. Establish a feminine heroine and assign her a meaningful name that fits a startling story world. She’s not a woman in a man’s clothes. A cutesy name may have fit when she was three years old, but not as an adult who is ready to beat down the doors of Hell to solve a crime or save a someone from a vicious crime.

3. Incorporate a heroine’s physical attributes into her character. Include how the physical world affects her behavior, goals, strengths, weaknesses, and flaws in her character. For example: a heroine who is diabetic may need to eat on a regular basis. If she’s in a situation chasing down a bad guy and is without a snack, she’s in real trouble. Her sacrifice to prevent a crime may be her own life.

4. Place her in a setting that is totally antagonistic. Every scene has the setting working against her. The result forces her to be a stronger heroine. For example: Heroine has grown up in south Texas. Her assignment has taken her to Alaska in the dead of winter. She must learn to cope with the temperature change. Another example is a working environment where she must team up with a person she detests.

5. Discover her physical problem or goal and why it matters to her and the world around her. Ask yourself, why is my heroine the only person on the planet to step into this role? What does she have to lose? What does she have to gain? What will it take for her accept the problem and put her skills to the test?

6. Create a well-rounded character psychologically. This means developing a distinct personality and ascribing great communication skills. She’s a character who experiences realistic emotions and uses the lessons of the past to form who she is today. The heroine’s not perfect; neither does she have complete control of her emotions. Give her thick skin and a soft heart.

7. Unearth her internal struggle and how she will triumph over the issue. The struggle must be faced head on in the climax and overcome to reach her goal. For example: Heroine is afraid of water; she nearly drowned as a child. In the climax, she’s tossed overboard a boat with a wounded hero. To save him, she must not panic and survive in the water.

 DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful.

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  1. Excellent article, DiANn. It works well as a primer for newer writers and a checklist for the multi-published. I found one item I hadn't fully developed in the first draft on my current WIP. Thanks!

  2. Susan, thank you for hosting me on Suite T today. I appreciate you.

  3. Thank you DiAnn. We appreciate all the advice you share with author.
    Looking forward to reading your new book, AIRBORNE.