Heroines

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Not the drug, but the person.

The heroine should be someone you would like to be or someone they could be best friends with. Since they are one of the two main characters in a romance story, they should be someone that the reader will enjoy. The reader will be spending at least two hours with this person, so they should like them.

(There are of course exceptions to this rule. There are always exceptions.)

We want to live another life. That's why we read fiction. It gives us a chance to fall in love with different people and live lives that we could never have. I will never be a 16th century courtesan, but I can read it and give my brain the sensation that I am. I'd love to fall in love with a handsome billionaire, but my husband would miss me.

That's why I read instead. I get all the thrill, but none of the work.

As such, make your heroine someone that your reader will want to be. Make them funny or sweet. Make their life more exciting. They can have danger and drama without the risks. They should never be boring or rude. We have to like them, even if we don't agree with their decisions.

You can have a strong heroine. She can be brass. She can be ditzy or even a little self-centered, but we have to like her. We need to see something redeemable inside of her. Romance readers want the happily ever after (that's why we read romance and not other genres) so she needs to be capable of not only having that good ending, but deserving it.

Your heroine may not be everyone's cup of tea, but she should always be kind. She needs to be someone you want to spend the next week with (as a writer and a reader.) I'm a shy introvert, so I don't always see myself as the bold, uber-friendly heroines. However, I would LOVE to be their friend. I can get behind a heroine that could be my best friend.

Your heroine can make mistakes. She should make mistakes. If Elizabeth Bennet wasn't prejudiced, we wouldn't have a story. But, the important part is that even though Elizabeth has all the wrong ideas about Darcy, we still like her. We understand why she's sure that Darcy is a prideful snot, and we can see a bit of ourselves behaving that way too.

Keep this in mind while writing your character. The heroine is your reader. No one wants to think of themselves as rude or unkind. We all want to be Cinderella with animals that come rescue us because we are so damn awesome. She shouldn't be perfect, but she should be someone we want to be. Someone we would want to be friends with.

The main point here is that the heroine should be likable. We should want her to succeed. We need to feel that she deserves this chance at happiness.

As you write your heroine, make sure that she's always someone you'd want to have around. Even when she's sad and mopey because she's lost the love or her life, we should want to bring her ice cream. We can want to smack her upside the head, but we should want to do it because we love her and want what's best for her.

Not because she's annoying the crap out of us.

Your heroine should be someone you want to be or someone you want as your best friend.


Creating Characters

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Characters are what make the story. You have to have good characters or the story won't matter. We need to care about these people and what happens to them. I would bet your favorite movie has interesting characters that grow and change through the story.

Boring people don't sell books. We all know too many boring people in real life. We want a chance to escape into a more interesting world for a while. That's why billionaires, princes, aliens, shifters, pirates, historical, and motorcycle clubs are all popular genres. We want something new and original in our lives.

The best part is that you don't have to come up with a brand new character all on your own. You already have hundreds of them in your head.

Think of your favorite movie. I'm guessing you have a favorite character. They probably have something interesting about them. They probably have someone that they interact with that is interesting too. There is a relationship that makes it fun to watch. The way they react to problems speaks to you.

You can have a Mary Sue (someone with no real characteristics) as a main character, but only for self insertion. Think of Twilight- most people don't really love Bella, but we can easily insert ourselves into her head. She's a blank character. If we were reading this from someone other than Bella or Edward's point of view, we wouldn't see why Edward is so enamored with this very normal/boring girl. She could use a little more humor. Or a hobby. Or something that makes her stand out more than just she smells really delicious. We can't love her based on looks/scent/can't read her thoughts alone. We need to like HER. Not her attributes.

Being pretty isn't enough. Being handsome isn't enough. We need some flaws. We need something that we can connect with.

Let's create a character for a book. Let's call him Joe.

Joe is prince charming. He's handsome. He's rich. He's in the perfect age range.

Do we actually like Joe? Would you talk to him at a party? Would you set him up on a blind date with your sister? What kind of date would they go on?

We need more. He can be handsome. He can be smart, but we need to show that intelligence, not just say it. Instead of “Joe was smart” we need to say “Joe sped through his advanced physics homework. He didn't even need a calculator.” We should also clarify if he's book smart or street smart.

Then we need a flaw. It doesn't have to be something terrible, but something that trips them up. For Aladdin, he is a street rat with too much confidence. For Thor, he's not all that bright sometimes. Loki is self-centered and a trickster. Edward Cullen likes blood. Mr. Darcy has way too much pride.

These flaws make the story much easier. Why can't Mr. Darcy find love? He's got too much pride.

It makes the character relate-able. If the character is too perfect, we can't put ourselves in their shoes. We don't care about them. The Stepford Wives are only interesting as plot devices, not as characters.

Your hero and your heroine both need a flaw. If their flaws clash, even better. Your hero has too much pride? Your heroine having some prejudice against prideful people is great. We have drama.

In creating characters, use what you know. Is there a friend that you adore? Can't stand? Why do you feel that way? Take them and make them a character.

Same with TV shows. Do you LOVE Dr. McSteamy? Why? What makes him real to you? He's kind of an ass, but there's something charming about him. Use that.

There are so many amazing characters out there. Use literature (Pride and Predjudice), TV (Grey's Anatomy), Movies (Disney Princesses) and make them your own. Make Disney's Mulan meet Mr. Darcy, but they're on an alien spaceship. Maybe Arya Stark should have a meeting with Marvel's Loki, but they're both high powered business lawyers.

Imagine the possibilities!