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.
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?
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.