Friday, May 08, 2009

The best heroines are found in real life

It seems to me that heroes tend to drive book sales. Come up with seven delicious men, and the readers will forgive you lackluster, occasionally dull heroines. Some of my favourite authors have written books, where the heroine pales next to the wonderfully complex, dark, conflicted hero. See most of Laura Kinsale's books for example, and from there go to JR Ward, both authors I read compulsively and love.
And I'm pretty sure Molly has a shrine to Laura Kinsale in her house somewhere and I find nothing wrong with that.
But what makes Jenny Crusie a goddess is her ability to create a hero and heroine that were both complex and interesting and complemented each other wonderfully.
It's something I keep in mind as I edit this book, that will never be done. I'm thinking about the traits I've given my heroine, her drive, her independence, and ensuring that somewhere in there, I'm also making her likeable, but never a pushover.
The women I most admire in my life are more and more coming to mind when I start thinking about my heroines. I write historicals, so some of it has to relate to the time period. But I have a friend, who's personal life is a disaster, who is basically a single mom and both her parents are very sick. And somehow every day she manages, not only to get out of bed, but also to laugh at something, usually herself.
She occasionally bemoans her fate, but only for a short while, and then gets back to the process of moving on. Her sense of humor, her refusal to dwell on the negatives in her life, and her need to carve out some pleasures for herself are all traits I would love to somehow embue in my heroines. Because she is not self-sacrificing, and she does wish for easier times, but she still deals magnificently with everthing that is on her plate.
In romance, in our need to make our heroines likeable, make them too self-sacrificing, never complaining, too serious and not real. The best of chick lit and women's fiction gave us heroines that felt real and fully developed, but usually in the process, the male lead suffered.
We at drunk writers have been thinking about what will make the next best selling contemporary, and I think right now, it's combining a fully realized hero and heroine and making them equals, and real.
I would read that in a heartbeat.


Maureen McGowan said...

WOW. What a fabulous post, Sinead. Awesome.

I think you're dead right, too, that particularly in contemporary romance the heroines need to be memorable, interesting and strong. In some other sub-genres, they're basically place-holders.

Anonymous said...

Interesting - you may be right.

I've just discovered Jennifer Crusie and I love her characters. Her best characters, to me, were in Bet Me - Min and Cal - the best I've read in a long time.

Funny, I also quoted Jennifer Crusie on my blog today. :)

Kwana said...

Wonderful post. Thanks. Something I could really work on.

Sinead M said...

Jennifer Crusie is amazing... My favourite of hers is Welcome to Temptation.

Anonymous said...

Wow -- I really needed to read this right now! I'm in the middle of editing, and keep going back to something that's bothering me about my heroine. And I was just telling my crit partner, "She's just not interesting enough." She has the basic GMC, but nothing even remotely resembling the intrigue that my real-life friends have. (My hero, on the other hand, I love.) I wonder why I keep watering down my heroines? It's almost as if I know women are SO interesting that I assume the reader is going to fill that in? (i.e., of course women are amazing!) Silly. I think I have to go back and work on this very same thing, Sinead. Thanks for making me feel like I'm not the only one!

Btw, Jenny Crusie is one of my all-time faves!!!

Anonymous said...

And Laura Kinsdale, too!!

I'll have to visit this blog more often. : )

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