Today I was asked, “How do you write an adventurous heroine?”
I paused, knowing they’ve read Rogue Alliance and they’re referring to Shyla, a rough around the edges, detective trying to escape her troubled childhood. Well, rough around the edges is putting it mildly. Let’s be honest. She’s a mess. And readers love her.
It’s such a good question. How could I adequately describe how I created this complex character? I had to stop and think back to what it means for me when I’m reading a new book and discover a fabulous female lead.
What I discovered is that what I love most about a good heroine is her flaws. Does that sound weird? Maybe it does at first but if you stop and think back to some of your favorite books, I think you’ll often discover that some of your favorite characters to read, even if you didn’t necessarily like them, were the ones who struggled with very real quirks and flaws. This is what makes them fascinating. This is what draws the reader in. This is what makes them real.
I’m finding myself more and more disappointed in a good number of books these days because of the fact that they are lacking the flawed aspects of their characters. It seems that a good majority of stories these days introduce the male protagonist and the female protagonist and immediately you sense there will be the formulaic romance to follow, which is fine, that’s a successful formula for a reason. We like romance! The trouble I have is how inclined we are now to write the fairy-tale version where no one has any real issues along the way. They may have trust issues, insecurities, they may struggle with a small secret, but in the end, it’s nothing real fascinating. It’s fairly boring.
So I ask myself, what do I like to read in a female lead? Well, she has to be tough yet vulnerable. I don’t know about you but I’m tired of reading about women who are so insecure they don’t know how to think their way out of a wet paper bag. I’m tired of reading about a woman who needs saved by a man. Now pause…I’m not saying I don’t like when a man can save a woman. We all love a good hero rescuing his woman scene. Who doesn’t? What I’m saying is that it’s still important to have your heroine be strong without her hero. It’s a fine balance, I know. It is a delicate dance to create a realistic female character these days because if you make her too strong you run the risk of destroying her femininity and then you just have a bad ass female with very little potential for other personality traits. In fact, for some readers it can be a turn-off. That’s when, as the creator of this character, you decide to show your heroines flaws and insecurities. You show what she’s afraid of under that tough exterior. You show what she struggles with. And by all means, you allow her to make mistakes.
So often now, you can be reading along, enjoying a book and you can actually sense the writer hesitating as they hold back their characters. Instead of allowing their female to make a real mistake, something that could be detrimental or even unethical, because they are so afraid of how it will make their reader feel, that their character won’t seem “perfect” anymore, so they keep it safe. I say go ahead, make the mistake! I want to read a book that has me at the edge of my seat saying, “Oh, my god! I can’t believe she just did that!” That’s how your character grows and learns and overcomes. That’s how your character endears the reader. That’s how your female lead becomes THE HEROINE!