Friday, March 23, 2007

My favourite ladies…

As the title might suggest, I’m blogging about heroines.

Been thinking about my current WIP and my heroine lately. She feels a little bland to me. Serviceable, definitely practical, and I’m wondering what I’m going to do to spice her up.
To be fair, she’s not the central character, she’s part of a subplot, cause the romance is a subplot, a major one, but not the core story.. Which could either be really interesting, or me shooting myself in the foot when it comes time to market this book.

I write historicals and while I try and make my heroines fascinating and proactive, they are limited by the restraints of the time period, as well as my own shortcomings as a writer.

I’ve been thinking lately of my favourite heroines. Here’s my list, in no particular order.

1) Anyone who knows me is going to see this coming. Ellen Ripley, Alien, Aliens. I loved her especially in Aliens. She is strong, vulnerable, maternal and completely kick ass. On top of that she’s smart, resourceful and I could go on and on, but she might be my favourite female character ever, and considering the time period when the first Alien came out, one of the earliest true screen heroine’s kicking butt.

2) Buffy. Can’t have this list without Buffy, one of my favourite all time TV shows and a great central character. She became so much more than the Valley girl stereotype in the movie, but again, strong, kick ass, and again vulnerable, with a wonderful sense of humor.

3) Starbuck – Battlestar Galactica – I love that the original character was male and they made him a chick. A chick who’s the best pilot in the fleet, drinks and swears harder than any male on board the ship, and can take a punch with the best of them. I feel they created this character and the last thing they did was define her gender. Then they layered in a sad backstory of abuse and neglect by her mother that explained her self-destructive behavior. I love the contradictions in her, the way she can be cutthroat, but also completely loyal.

4) Jenny Jones – The Promise of Jenny Jones – by Maggie Osborne. I love,love this book, because of Jenny Jones. A large, mean tempered(by her own description) foul mouthed, ungraceful and completely loyal and honest woman who hides her vulnerabilities behind a hard façade. To me Maggie Osborne creates the best heroines out there and Jenny Jones is my favourite of hers.

5) Anita Blake – Laurell K. Hamilton – I loved the first ten of these books, loved the stories, the world building and the sexual tension, but none of these would have worked with out the main character. Anita Blake is capable and straightforward, caring and loyal. A great series till it went off the rails.

There is a theme to my favourite heroines. They all in their own way kick ass. They are all strong, if not physically, then mentally and they all have a deep vulnerability under their hard exteriors.

I believe it’s the contradiction of the strength and vulnerability that makes them so fascinating. They are not all immediately likeable, but they are interesting and intriguing and a benchmark for me.
Benchmarks are important for writers. We need something to use as inspiration, to reach for, and these are my heroine benchmarks.
If I at any point come close, I’ll be a very happy woman.


Kimber said...

What I find interesting in heroines are the flaws. I like to get a glimpse into why the heroines have these specific flaws. For me, that's one of the most important parts of building backstory.

Ironically in my first shoppable manuscript, I didn't follow my own preferences. My heroine didn't have a strong flaw. I got comments about her being bland and uninteresting (even though she was doing interesting things).

My heroine in my second manuscript has a very strong flaw. There's a good reason for it but it still causes conflict with the hero. It is a much stronger manuscript and ironically the heroine is more likeable.

Working on my third, my heroine is again bland. I have to find a strong flaw to make her a bit more interesting.

Maureen McGowan said...

Fabulous post, Sinead. I find characters like that fascinating, too.

I haven't read any of the romances you mention (I know, terribly poorly read in the genre) but my favorite heroine, of all the romances I have read, has to be Sugar Beth Carey in Ain't She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Since I, too, like writing heroines who need to make some major changes in their life, I need to read the opening pages of that book again and study how she made a woman, with so much potential to be unlikable, totally fascinating and likeable.

Sinead M said...

Hey Kimber, it's definitely their flaws that make them interesting. Although I think the majority of readers also want strength in their heroine, if not physical, than mental.
Maureen, completely forgot about Sugar Beth, or she too would have made the list. That's my fav of SEP's books... I know I forgot others. I mean think of Scarlet O' Hara and Elizabeth Bennet. It's criminal they aren't on the list either..
That's what happens when you do a blog before coffee..

Amy Ruttan said...

I write historicals too, it can be hard fitting into the confines of a strict time period.

My latest heroine is a late Victorian lady ... she smokes cigars when she's agitated, but hides it because it's not proper for a lady to smoke.

For me that came out of left field, because I don't smoke; but I can't stand the drab, predictable heroines anymore. I need zest and spunk.

Christine said...

I love heroines who are strong and yet have that soft core. Starbuck is my favourite alpha heroine out there these days. Love her.

Christine said...

I love heroines who are strong and yet have that soft core. Starbuck is my favourite alpha heroine out there these days. Love her.

kathie said...

I know nothing of the rules for writing period romance--other than the obvious things--but couldn't you make your heroine do any thing in the world as long as you can sell it to the reader? Think Empress Theodora of Constantinople. The woman lived in the 1500's (I think) and ushered in feminist and child centered practices that were innovative here a hundred years ago! I don't know, I'm sure I'm being naive saying "oh, just make her do whatever you want," but I'm just wondering...

Sinead M said...

Kathie, I completely agree with you. Fiction requires pro-active protagonists, and even in a historical setting that is completely required, it just has to be planned properly and sold to the reader.

I think a reader will buy almost anything as long as the story is entertaining and you explain why a person behaves the way they do...

Probably the most flak comes from other historical writers...but that's a whole other kettle of fish..

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