Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Over the Rainbow...

from Mia Marlowe...

I was fascinated by Gina Conkle's blog from yesterday about heroes and our favorite archetypes. (I confess a weakness for both the Arrogant Alpha and the Wounded Soldier.) Her post made me think about what usually happens when I give my Meat on the Bones characterization workshop to writers' groups. The function of the protagonist in fiction is to give readers a character to care about and pull for and we've been blessed with lots of terrific heroes. I always invite attendees to call out their favorite heroes from books, TV and the big screen. The names fly fast and furious and I finally have to cut them off so the workshop can move forward. Then I ask for favorite heroines.

Cue the crickets.

Finally, someone will sheepishly raise a hand and ask with a questioning lilt, "How about Dorothy?" 

This worries me. It makes me think we writers are not doing our job if we can't create more memorable heroines. If my readers don't want to slip into my heroine's ruby slippers, why will they spend any time at all following her around in my fictional world?

So here's what I try to give to my leading ladies each time:

1. Intelligence--She may not always have an extensive education. In fact, since I write historicals and women didn't always have the opportunity for education we take for granted today, that's almost a given, but my heroine had better be smart. None of that going alone into the creepy basement because she hears something. The noise she hears had better be a child in peril or my heroine isn't going down there.

2. Not obsessed with her appearance--My heroine may be pretty, but she doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time on her looks. In my upcoming A Rake by Any Other Name (November 2014), Sophie Goodnight declares "If anyone doesn't like my looks, he can look the other way!"

3. A goal beyond snagging a man--Whether it's solving a mystery, crossing items off a list of secret pleasures, or just learning to make the best cream puffs in Christendom, I want a heroine who passionately needs to excel at something.  Of course, she'll get the guy, but I'd sure like to see her catch the killer, do something outrageous, or outrageously well too!

4. A code of ethics that will be challenged.--Heroes are put to the test all the time and we are riveted by their choices.Why shouldn't heroines have their sense of "oughtness" tried as well?

THE PRIZE
Who is your favorite heroine? 

Share your most memorable female protagonist for a chance to win a digital copy of one of my backlist titles (Winner's Choice). You can check them all out here.  Be sure to leave your email address in your response or check back on Sunday, April 20th, when I'll post the winner here. 
Good luck!

18 comments:

  1. Favorite heroine? I liked Deuce from Ann Aguirre's Razorland Trilogy, Tris from the Divergent series, Eve Dallas from JD Robb's books, Stephanie Plum...more...

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    1. Sounds like you've got a number of them, Shana. I frankly love your Lady Elinor from True Spies!

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  2. Since Shana's already mentioned Eve Dallas, I'm putting in my vote for Cordelia Naismith (later Vorkosigan) of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga. She begins as a wholly capable botanical surveyor/ship's captain, falls in love across planetary cultures with Aral Vorkosigan, learns to play the political game with subtlety and shrewdness, and ultimately changes the whole society of the "backwater dirtball" that becomes her home after she marries Aral. And then there's the redoubtable Egyptologist Amelia Peabody Emerson from Elizabeth Peters' mystery series. And so many memorable historical heroines--from Elizabeth Bennet to Jane Eyre to Jo March . . . I agree, Mia. It is a little worrisome that heroines' names don't spring as readily to mind as heroes'! I can only hope that changes more with every book that delivers a formidable heroine!

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    1. I recently discovered Amelia Peabody. What a delight she is!

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  3. My brain shot off Scarlett (GWTW) even though she's not widely liked. Then, I blanked for a few seconds and the floodgates opened. In books, I love Cymbra (Believe in Me), Aislinn (Wolf and the Dove), and Katherine (Anya Seton's Katherine hist fic, not romance...does that count if she was a real person in history?). On TV, Lagertha, Lagertha, and Lagertha again. (from History Channel's "Vikings" series). And you know what, Mia? Lagertha's a shieldmaiden and I don't really like to read or follow the sword wielding tough-as-the-guys heroines. As I step back,the common thread in theses heroines is a heart for others (except for Scarlett...I don't know what to say about her except I respect her survivor instinct). Great post! I had a chuckle about #1 and the scary basement.

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    1. Love Lagertha! If she wasn't still on Vikings I think I'd have stopped watching it bc Ragnar has not been impressing me much of late. However, his brother Rollo, in addition to being a total hottie, has had a good growth arc as he works out his redemption after his betrayal.

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  4. Scarlett O'hara

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  5. Whenever I get asked this question the first that always comes to mind is Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. She is a strong character that though broken down still rises. More recent heroines, I agree with Eve Dallas and would also add Lisbeth from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. She might be a kind of anti- heroine in some eyes but she is strong, intelligent and pushes back.

    fsteph55(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Lisbeth seems so fragile and damaged at first, but then you start to see the solid core of steel in her spine. I like her.

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  6. First person I think about it Buttercup from Princess Bride. She survived the fire swamp, what more could you want!
    lattebooks at hotmail dot com

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  7. I think Cameron from Something about You by Julie James or Meredith Bancroft from Paradise by Judith McNaught. Both heroines are smart, funny & beautiful.

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    1. Those are both new to me. I'll have to look for them.

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  8. I think the first name that came to mind was Claire in Outlander. I liked that she was strong and determined and she loves Jamie completely.

    sheryll1974@netscape.net

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    1. Claire does come to my mind too. She loves so fiercely, it's hard not to want to try out her life for a while.

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  9. I love JD Robb's Eve Dallas, Eileen Wilks' Lily Yu, Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson, Tanya Huff's Torin Kerr, David Weber's Honor Harrington (and yes, of course Lois McMaster Bujold's Cordelia) and so many more!

    elewkf1 at yahoo dot com

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    1. Strong heroines all! Thanks for sharing, ELF.

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