If you've written for any length of time then you know characterization. It's important to shape your characters so that the readers either love them or hate them. A character that leaves the reader feeling ambivalent can be disastrous to your book sales which is why I'm writing a series of articles on the main characters of your books. In this first installment, we'll take a look at creating a heroine the readers will connect with, someone they can empathize with, sympathize with and root for time and again.
Many different types of heroines exist and which one you use will, of course, depend upon the kind of book you are writing. For the sake of simplification, I'll be focusing on heroines for romance manuscripts only.
First, a heroine in a romantic novel is almost never a bitch unless she has a soft side. She can be tough, determined and even difficult at times, but she has to have a side that makes the reader want her to succeed in her task which we all know is living happily ever after with her very own Prince Charming. If you present your readers with a heroine who is hard as ten-day-old bread, unyielding and just plain irritating, they won=t be apt to want her to get anything but her comeuppance and if they return, it will only be to read about her downfall.
Second, distressed heroines are no longer in vogue. While there is nothing wrong with the “hero saves the day" stories, books where the heroine is always in peril (especially if she continually puts herself in ridiculous situations) can be tiresome. The last thing a reader wants is a heroine whose life is constantly in jeopardy because of her own unending stream of mistakes.
Constant complaining, whining and a general, all-around moodiness aren=t appealing in a heroine, either. Readers are looking for a woman who can get the job done without rendering the hero useless, women who are strong, yet vulnerable, determined yet soft and while there is certainly nothing wrong with putting a Sydney Bristow (Alias-ABC) in an action-packed romance, there has to be room for a man in her life. And he has to feel needed, wanted and necessary.
So now that I've told you the types of heroines who generally make readers wince, how do you create this elusive character who is feminine, charming and can elicit readers loyalty from page one?
Intelligence is a must. Making your heroine seem dim-witted can leave most female readers with a bad taste in their mouth. And yes, you can create a sharp lead woman without usurping the intelligence of her male counterpart. Think Sarah McKenzie on JAG, Lily Manning on Once and Again and Amy Gray on Judging Amy. I could continue this list ad infinitum. These characters have all been created with intelligence, passion and a soft side which does not make them any less a strong, female lead.
Next comes that soft side I mentioned in the paragraph above. There is no such thing as a woman who does not cry or at the very least, succumb to the distress she is feeling at the time. And there is nothing wrong with allowing the reader to see through a heroine's tough, exterior shell. In romances, the heroine isn't flawless. She cries, screams, shouts, curses and even throws things, sometimes. That doesn't make her any less the heroine. It makes her human. The readers need to see that side of your heroine which they can relate to.
While some writers don't feel it's necessary to include a sense of humor in their heroine, especially if they're writing romantic dramas, I simply cannot create a female lead without giving her a strong sense of humor and sharp wit. Is it required that your heroine laugh several times throughout your story? No, but page after page of morose drama can be tiresome and if you consider your own life, you probably don't go a day without laughing even during the worst of times. The same should be said of your character.
So putting the characteristics together, intelligence, softness and wit, I have my female lead. Oh, there are some nuances that I throw in for each heroine to separate them from one another. One might be bookish, the other somewhat of a tom-boy. I've had romance heroines who can match the hero word for word and yet, melt beneath his touch. And let's not forget the heroines who think they're defeated only to find that inner strength necessary to succeed in life.
Many personalities exist and if you use the right combination, you'll create a heroine which will have readers excited to follow her story. And when you think about it, as much as we write the stories for ourselves, we have to write them for our readers.
I'm a published author of contemporary, fantasy and paranormal romances and currently write for Ellora’s Cave and Five Star/Gale. I recently participated in a collaboration novel entitled “Bewitched, Bothered & BeVampyred” with Mary Janice Davidson, Susan Grant, Patricia Rice, Mary Jo Putney, Gena Showalter and other talented authors. All proceeds from this book go to benefit the International Red Cross.
Readers can visit me on the web at http://www.dawnrachel.com .