Thursday, May 19, 2011

The fine line between a nice heroine and a martyr

I'm reading a book right now, the title of which will not be mentioned in this blog, where the heroine is a martyr, and such a bore. Seriously, in the book, different characters make mention of her being so brave, and capable, and she is both of those things, sort of.

The sort of being, she operates as any one would under the same circumstances, but in this novel, it's boring, a little too much telling and not enough character tics to make her interesting.

I like a heroine who while she's doing brave, selfless acts gets a little annoyed that her manicure just got ruined, or her favourite dress has dirt on it. Better still if she notices a friend has nicer hair and slightly hates that friend for it. Romance heroines are often too nice. I know romance readers want likeability in their heroines, but while she's saving the puppy from the raging fire that she got a little annoyed that because of the stupid puppy, her new louboutins got a scratch on them.

OK, so I've veered off into chick lit territory. I want to relate to a heroine, not feel shamed by her goodness and never ending good will towards others.


Anonymous said...

I especially hate the heroine with the "character flaw" of realizing she's too much of a perfectionist. Gag.

I have a friend who is an immaculate housekeeper. It gave me a great bit of joy each time I used her downstairs bathroom to notice a tiny piece of painter's tape along the baseboard. It was there for over a year. I decided I could still be friends with her.

Don't we women put enough pressure on ourselves? The last thing I want when I slip into my tub (that is a little past due for a re-caulking) is to read about some perfect goody-two-shoes, who of course falls in love with the unrepentant bad boy. Only after he's become perfect as well.That is the kind of book that gives romance a bad name.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I agree with you - but I think that balance swings a lot of different ways - too sarcastic and I'm done, too angry and I'm done, too wimpy I'm done that tightrope always comes down to just one line in the first five pages - you get the right line in there, whatever it is and your readers will follow you -

Stephanie Doyle said...

Agreeing with everyone! I think where we are seeing the trend (at least in romance) is for more realistic people. Humans. Not caricatures of what the "romance" heroine used to be. I'm thinking of Sherry Thomas as I right this.

Sometimes it's not easy to like her heroines... which in a way likes what she's doing more.

People shoudln't be any ONE thing. And as writers when we try to make something "bigger than life" I think we over compensate.

Eileen said...

When I was writing Hold Back the Dark, in one the first scenes, I had my heroine grousing (internally only!) about getting up in the middle of the night to deal with a patient. My editor had me cut it. She said it made her seem petulant and not heroine-material. It still irritates me. Who wants to get up in the middle of the night to deal with someone? Why couldn't she grouse? At any rate, that character is not one of my favorites. She's just too goody goody because of things like that.

Maureen McGowan said...

I just revised an entire manuscript to make the heroine more likeable. Jury's still out. (And by jury, I mean editors.)

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