Friday, June 29, 2012

Awesome or unlikeable

Like Maureen, I read the first scene of Can't Buy Me Love pretty much in it's first draft and my first reaction, besides seething jealousy, was awe. In ridiculously few words, Molly had created a heroine I instantly loved.

I loved her at the beginning and loved her more at the end, and always, always found Tara Jean fascinating and compulsively readable.

And then the reviews came out. That most were incredibly positive came as no surprise, but where I was dumbfounded came the reviews that called Tara Jean unlikeable and difficult. Because I truly did not understand.

She's not perfect, certainly not at the beginning, but writers learn quickly that our characters have to grow and change and become better people over the course of the book, and if she's perfect to start with, then there's nowhere for her to go.
And she had to create sparks with the hero and a passive, nice girl is not going to create sparks with a hockey legend.

Some of my favourite romance heroines start their stories as challenging. Ain't She Sweet's Sugar Beth was a genuine highschool bitch who made life miserable for those around her, and I adored her story.

Jenny Jones in Maggie Osborne's book starts the story in jail for killing a man, in self defense, and she's rough and hard, even with the little girl who recently lost her mother, but over the course of the book, she changes and becomes one of my favourite romance heroines ever.

I prefer heroines with hard edges, smart, even a little opportunistic. They're more interesting than the heroine who is great at her job, kind to old people, a great friend, even when those friends are walking all over her, and in general a doormat to everyone around her.

I'd like to see more heroines like Tara Jean in romance and I'm glad to say a lot more people loved Tara Jean than hated her.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting! My best reviews say they love the characters - my worst reviews say they don't like them at all. Go figure!

I have to say that I almost gave up on the book I'm reading now - I thought the heroine was too dumb in the beginning. But she has grown into quite a character and I'm really enjoying the book now.

So, sad to say, I find myself guilty of the same thing - even though I know the character is wonky at first because the whole point is to have her change and grow.

Sometimes I think we're all too hard on books and writers - but reading is so personal. We often have passionate outbursts about our likes and dislikes.

As writers, we can only write for our "right reader."

Maureen McGowan said...

Hear, hear!

Stephanie Doyle said...

I agree - and I'm going to guess (just a guess) that some of the reviews weren't necessarily a reaction to Tara Jean or Luc in terms of "their" likeability as characters - but a reaction to the story as it starts to unfold.

From the first paragraph you're thinking oh this is going to be funny and quirky.

By chapter two I think you're like... woa... this isn't what I was expecting. This is serious.

So I think some people are reacting to that initial shift but I think most are saying... WOW... I'm in.

Then you just hold on for the ride.

Molly O'Keefe said...

you guys are so good to me!! I appreciate the posts so much guys - I really love this posse we've created. so much so, for those of you who haven't seen it - the dedication to Maureen, Sinead, Stephanie and Eileen in Can't Buy Me Love - are the drunk writers.

Thank you, for this week, and for everything else you do!!

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