Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Making Our Heroines Endearing

A couple of days ago I started reading a book by a well known author. Honestly, I picked up the book because when I went to Borders they didn’t have the one I was looking for, and my coupon was only good for that day. So I grabbed a book with a snazzy cover and it cost me sixty cents.

From the start I felt no affinity for the heroine. She’s a warrior, a kick ass immortal who kills demons. She has no love interest at the beginning of the book and apparently no desire for one. She’s ultra tough. Almost forbidding. Maybe it was that aspect that caused my lukewarm feelings for her, or the fact she has no vulnerability to make me want to care about her. No unfulfilled desires to make me want to root for her.

What makes an endearing heroine? We have to have conflict in our stories, because otherwise there really is no story. But where do we draw the line? Where does personality conflict become plain old nastiness?

Every year I work on a short story about a female tow truck driver who hates Christmas. Ever since childhood she’s had nothing but a string of bad luck on Christmas. I drag this story out of my hard-drive around November 15th to work on it, if only to get me in the holiday mood. In fact, in all these years, I’m still not finished. I have one chapter left to write, and hopefully this is the year I’ll complete it.

But as I was thinking about this post, I realized that my heroine is almost as forbidding as the demon-bashing heroine of the book I just bought. Nicky Jeffries hates Christmas so powerfully she won’t listen to anyone who tries to convince her otherwise. And just as she’s starting to warm to it because of the love she’s found with the hero, something bad happens that reaffirms her belief that “Christmas is nothing more than a blatant exploitation by the stores to bilk consumers into spending money under the pretense of ‘giving.’ The only ‘spirit’ is the Spirit of Spending.”

Hey, those are her words, not mine : )

So where do we writers draw the line? When do our heroines go from being “true to their beliefs” to a total bitch? Is it the HEA we give them in the end? Or is that a moot point if we’ve ruined them in your eyes on the journey there?

By the way, this story I’ve been working on for countless years still doesn’t have a title. So if you’ve got suggestions, please comment! If I find a winner amongst the comments, I’ll send that submitter a special holiday prize.

* * * * *
Nicky Jeffries hates Christmas. Well, who doesn’t? With all the commercialism, stress, and chaos, there are a lot of people who feel the same way. But Nicky has more reason than most for hating it. She’s been robbed, dumped, caught pneumonia, broken her leg, and this year, she ran over Santa Claus with her truck.


Savanna Kougar said...

Okay, testing... one, two, three...
Blogger wasn't working ~

Here's my comment ~

Ran over Santa with her truck... omygawd!

Crystal, that's a good question. I prefer to experience the heroine as she learns and grows, or has new experiences that open up her being, or self. But, it has to make sense. The author can't just say, oh this changed or transformed the heroine. The story and her feelings have to justify it.
I've been somewhat disappointed by the 'telling' instead of 'showing' the heroine's journey in some books.
Okay, what does make your heroine vulnerable. More than that? What is it about her that is lovable, that is, does she have a heart for kids in need, animals in need. What would she do to help someone at Christmas.
I'd have to know more about your story to attempt a good title...
However ~
The Day Santa Got in the Way
Or ~
Hitting Santa Claus for Christmas

Paris said...

I think the heroine's journey is just as important as the hero's and I can remember all of those books I read in the seventies where the hero was so damn mean I wondered why the heroine kept loving him.

I don't have a problem with kick-ass heroines, in fact I love them. I have a problem with a character who isn't developed enough to let me identify or bond with her. That's what makes the journey interesting (for me) and without it I feel cheated.

I'm with Savannah when it comes to the "telling vs. showing" the journey. Don't promise me action and then tell it to me;-)

Great post!

Crystal Kauffman said...

Savanna don't worry, Santa's okay. He didn't get completely squashed. :)