Friday, March 20, 2009

Top Ten Reasons I Want to be a Romance Novel Heroine

10. Beauty. Sure, they may deviate one or two degrees away from ‘OMG, she’s so shiny I have to look away’, but they are always beautiful.
9. Long, flowing tresses – rich and vibrant in color. Oh, and so silky that the hero itches to touch it. No more short, fine, straight, can’t do a thing with it hair.
8. Witty, charming and verbose. It will be the end of constructing brilliant repartee a day (or week) after engaging in an intellectual conversation.
7. Fabulous career. CEO of a major advertising company, medical doctor saving lives every day, artist, pastry chef – and in a historical, a lady of leisure (that’s my real desire).
6. No chores. No vacuuming or washing dishes. Cleaning the toilet – never again. And dust seems to be non-existent in a heroine’s house. Oh, yeah, you can see why this comes before beauty on this top ten list.
5. Time. There is never enough time in the real world to do all the things one wants to do. There are books piled on the bedside table to be read, photo albums needing to be organized, chores (see above) to get done. And forget about time to exercise…
4. Never have to exercise again. Self-explanatory!
3. Adventure and excitement. Right from that first page (first page!) to the last chapter there will be thrills and action. Fast paced living at its best.
2. Sex. Even if it’s behind closed doors, you know she’s getting some and you know it’s good.
And the number one reason I want to be a Romance Novel Heroine –
1. She lives Happily Ever After!

Last week we talked about the men, today let’s open up the floor to the women who intrigue, tempt, infuriate, and eventually bring our hero to his knees. The heroine.

I mentioned before that over on the SRW’s private blog we’re working on character interviews. For the second part of the exercise, I chose to switch out my hero for my heroine so she could have her say and I could work on her POV. You may remember me saying in last week’s blog post that Gillian was a well-developed individual and she was simply waiting for Mac to figure himself out before the story could move forward. Well, that was a blatant lie (I apologize to the readers). And I’ve made a very interesting discovery. I write wimpy women.

Now, this shouldn’t be a revelation. My first four drafts of Lady Bells were horrific. Mena was weak, timid, anxious, afraid, and, well, boring. I was going for reserved, soft-spoken, gentle. I re-wrote and re-wrote and polished and polished. Every subsequent draft had her getting stronger, more secure in who she was and what she stood for. She emerged like a butterfly from the cocoon, beautiful and determined. She is still reserved, soft-spoken, and gentle, but now she also has a backbone. And she so brings Hugh to his knees as he professes his undying love and devotion to her and her alone.

My new heroine, Gillian, the yin to Mac’s yang, is an artist (see reason number 7 – I always wanted to be an artist). Mac is a hardened mercenary. Family means everything to her, so much so that she has given up her dream to paint abstract in order to sell landscapes to tourists to contribute to the family coffers. Mac would rather forget his family. She sees beauty and possibility everywhere. Pessimism and suspicion are Mac’s closest allies. White versus black, day versus night. See, fully realized – I know exactly who she is. But, on paper, she’s coming across as a twit!

Obviously, I need to go back to the drawing board. I found a fascinating discussion here. The article is short, but the comment section is jumping with people’s thoughts and ideas on the aggressive heroine versus the passive one. It’s a long read, but well worth it. And I’m going take some time and digest the companion read to last week’s link. Tami Cowden’s article – The Eight Female Archetypes gives definitions, examples from movies, and scenarios. It might be exactly what I need to re-write Gillian as I envision her. Strong, confident, loving – a woman with a big heart except when it comes to forgiving herself. Mac’s happily ever after.

So, People of Blogland, what kind of heroines do you write? What kind do you enjoy reading – softhearted, but strong-willed women or boisterous, assertive ones who kick butt? And which Romance Novel Heroine quality do you wish you had? Looking forward to a lively discussion.

Janet (who's a little afraid of the formatting of this blogpost)


Silver James said...

G'morning, Janet. Uhm...My heroines tell me who and what they are. I may think I'm in charge but every time I try to force something on one of them, I get slapped down.

In Faerie Fate,, Becca is a lost soul who easily could have been a victim but chose to be strong. In Faerie Fire, Moira prefers staying in the background. She believes her strong suit is her brains, not her looks. The last book in the trilogy, Faerie Fool is still on the drawing board and I haven't really gotten a handle on Delaney yet, but she's brainy, too.

And...I'm detecting a pattern here--especially as I look at my other heroines in various stages of WIPs and "drawing board" projects.

Brains. All of my heroines have brains, or street smarts, or common sense. They are grounded. That's not on the list, though, is it? So...

10. Beauty - over-rated and fades with age. Brains are better. LOL

9. Those long flowing tresses mean hours of care. Give me short n'easy.

8. Witty, charming and verbose. That'd be cool, instead of figuring out the rejoinder two hours later...

7. Fabulous career. I've had several. Now I'm a writer. I think I'll keep this one!

6. No chores. But what would I do when I have writer's block?

5. Time. Dude! I ALWAYS need more of this! I need like forty hours a day.

4. No exercise. My dogs would not be very happy. They eat manuscripts when that happens.

3. Adventure and excitement. Well...been there, done that, sometimes miss it, but I've grown soft in my old age. I like sleeping in my nice, clean, soft bed every night.

2. Sex. I plead the fifth.

1. Happily Ever After! Works for me! (But I've got a pretty good HEA going as is so I won't complain.)

Have a great weekend!

Janet C. said...

Good morning, Silver. I was just over on your blog and left a message :)

Thanks for playing along with my tongue-in-cheek look at heroines of the romance novel. I agree with the brains comment, but the chores one? I play Suduko online when I have writer's block (OK, also when I'm procrastinating). And the sex one - I think I remember reading something on another blog about...well, let's just say, I know, Silver, I know!

Your heroines sound wonderful. I'm looking forward to your release date so I can get to know them better.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Wow, Janet - that's quite a list. One thing struck me as I read it, however:

#2 says 'she's getting some'

and #1 says she gets the HEA...

...but I don't see anyplace where you say she gets the guy. Hmmm. Just an observation, mind you. :)

My heroines vary but I've never written one who's a 'doormat' nor have I written one who's assertive to the point she bosses everyone around just because it's her nature. (Scarlett O-Hara comes to mind at this point.)

My fav heroine is Charlene in Charley's Saint. One contest judge called her 'snappy'. I kind of like that.

Silver - I like your list, too.

Janet C. said...

Hey, Anita - guess I should have been more specific. The hero is implied in the HEA :)

"Snappy" is a great compliment to a heroine, I think. I like that quality descriptor. What is it about her that would give a reader cause to call her 'snappy'? Can you share a little bit about her with us? And did she emerge from the get-go as 'snappy'?

I know Mena is now a heroine I love just as much as my hero Hugh does. I think I needed to go through the process of re-constructing so that she emerged as a very strong individual - strong, quiet, determined. That re-write helped my plot lines get stronger too, more conflict, more passion. She started out wimpy, but she definitely isn't now. I just have to remember that as I write Gillian's story - she'll develop as the story does, and will have many layers, just as the story does.

OH - lightbulb - perhaps that's what I do. Start barebones, then layer - like others do with plot (I have no problems with layering my stories - says she who thought Gillian was well-rounded ;)

Sorry, brainstorming in the comments section should be forbidden.


Karen said...

My #1 reason to be a romance heroine is - they never, ever suffer from PMS. Ever.

In my wip, Lily is your typical girl-next-door and she's got it pretty much together in every way but one.

But I do have one heroine rolling around in my head who is a 'doormat' at the beginning of the story but by the end she's able to hold her own against a very alpha hero and she becomes a warrior in her own right.

There are a lot of great heroines including Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum who breaks all the heroine rules (enjoy her).

Great post, Janet. Led me to a major insight about Lily.

Erika said...

Janet, LOVE YOUR LIST, I'm all about it.

My heroine, Carly, has been hurt (who hasn't?) but she has decided not to let it happen again. (who hasn't) Jack comes into her life unexpectedly (for the 2nd time) and vows to change her mind. Carly definitely has brains, she's book smart (Carly smiles) but sometimes she lacks a little in the common sense department (Carly smacks me in the back of the head).

ANYWAY, loved the list. My favorite heroine is....Min Dobbs from Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Definitely, or maybe it could, it's definitely Min Dobbs. I'm learning to be more decisive.

Janet C. said...

Love your reason to be a RNH, Karen. Yes, wouldn't we all want to end that suffering :)

I'm glad my post helped you gain a better understanding of Lily. Of course, now I'm very curious because I thought Lily was all together in a fabulous, heroine type of way. What was missing? Care to share? And when am I getting more to read of Chase and Lily's story?

Love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum!


Janet C. said...

Erika - I see you have problems with your characters reading over your shoulder, too :)

Carly sounds delightful - I like a heroine who's a little on the other side of perfect, that quirk that makes her memorable. Just like Crusie's heroines - all of them are so unique, it's hard to not remember them. My favorite - Matilda Goodnight from Faking It.

Glad you stopped by, Erika.


ban said...

was SOOOO looking forward to this post :) as i said, i'm having a hard time fitting my heroine into one of those archetypes - it's not that i don't understand her i think she just rebels against the idea of being 'classified'. her most obvious trait is her independence - she longs for adventure, she wants to see the world and live without the restrictions others would put on her. she is not verbose - quite the opposite but she has a fondess for sarcasm and baiting the hero is one of her favorite pass-times. UGH ! guess i should just give up and let her lead the way ... she asures me she knows where she's going.

Janet C. said...

After all that wait, I hope I didn't disappoint, Ban :)

Don't follow the rules, Ban. I think those heroines that truly stand out are the ones who don't fit the mold. They make for much more satisfying reads. That's why I didn't want to write the usual heroine for Lady Bells - I want her to be something other historical romance heroines aren't. But I needed to give her a backbone, and that's where I let her down.

Same with Gillian - I don't picture as a kick a$$ take names later kind of woman, but as my critiquer said, she needs to come across as stronger so she steps out of Mac's shadow and stands on her own. Oops, there I go brainstorming in the comment section again.

And from the short description you've given of your heroine, I like her already. Good luck with her:)


Silver James said...

Hey, I pled the fifth! There's a reason! *G*

I really think that layering a character is a smart way to go. I that regard. I carry a character around in my head forever, getting to know them, learning those layers as they get added. Even so, sometimes when I actually start writing, something new will jump out and shock the heck out of me. And that makes it fun!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet, I know the guy was implied in the HEA but some women don't need a man for a happlily ever after. And no, I didn't argue with hubby this morning. :)

My heroine, Charley and Henry have had a thing for each other since the first day of kindergarten when he noticed her small box of 8 basic crayons and offered to share his super jumbo deluxe ones with her. They were even an item as teens but Henry betrayed her and something bad happened to her when Henry was off with another girl. They still hang out with the same crowd (small town) but she's hardened and still harbors feelings for him which comes out in her speech whenever he's around.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Loved your top ten Janet. Like our discussion some time back on lists like that Body Language book, I can see a list like this prompting a story where the heroine is the complete opposite of everything. Of course if there's no happy-ever-after, the Romance genre wouldn't be too pleased. But personally, I love an ambiguous ending.

I've discovered I don't have much affection for sweet, warm, friendly, bubbly female characters. They seem fake to me, and also like they're trying to fulfill some sort of role of What Women Should Be Like. Once there's a little more to them than just warmth and big-heartedness, of course, they can become really interesting.

Generally though, I seem to create female characters with different forms of strength, and some form of attitude (I don't have the faintest why... surely it can't be my own quick tongue and sardonic attitude?) My heroines are rarely open, lovely people, inclined to carol their joy to passersby. They play things closer to the chest and are slow to trust. Which of course begs a little self-reflection as to why I tend towards those types of characters.

And there are always times when the character may wander in directions I don't want her to go. Like you may need to steer away from excessive twit-moments, I have to keep Alkaia from becoming to whiny and bitter. She can't just complain about her situation all the time and act hard-done-by. If she's going to be strong and interesting, she needs to handle those things, get over them, and grow.

Janet C. said...

Yes, Silver, that's what happens. I'll get to a certain point and my characters will do something, say something, and I'm amazed, amused, or even astounded. That's when I write a quick note to myself and then during re-writes, I layer that in. So even though they start twit-y, they emerge in the end as complex and unique.


Janet C. said...

Your hero and heroine sound wonderful, Anita. I love the crayon backstory. And you're working with another character as well - small town, I can imagine, plays its role in how Charley and Henry react with each other. I've lived in small towns - wouldn't want to if there was a man I had history with (or one I was still harboring a crush on).


Janet C. said...

Thanks, Hayley - I had a lot of fun with the list and I, too, thought it would be neat to create a heroine with none of these traits.

So, you've read Gillian's interview - did she come across as the uber people pleasing twit I wrote her as? I agree, I need to keep that close to the surface as I go forth with this character - really tune into the times when she's acting like a doormat and make her at least a little stronger in the first draft. Just like that first page challenge, you want the reader to like your characters, then fall in love with them as they come to know them better. If you don't, they won't continue reading.

I like your Alkaia - but I could see how she could wander into that angry/'why me' place if you don't keep her on a steady course. Then again, that would make excellent conflict (in a short bit) between her and DaHannen. Maybe?


Helena said...

Sorry I'm getting into the fray so late in the day, Janet. Good to see you are still going round the ring with Gillian. I wouldn't expect you to go down for the count.

And your blog readers are sure giving you a run for your money today, aren't they? Very lively!

We really owe you for your last two posts -- who would have any excuse not to be thinking about the essentials for their hero and heroine characters after the ride you have given us?

Makes me wonder if I have a hope of portraying my heroines the way they need to be. I have two generations of women in the WIP I'm working on. You've been introduced to Fiona, and through her given a glimpse of her mother Laura. They have to deal with some pretty heavy conflict in relation to their respective romances. So I have to decide how similar, and how different, they are from each other.

Oh, and there will be a HEA, for sure, even tho I'm just starting to get a handle on the issues I've dealt myself in this story. Your post today will help me figure it out. But, ultimately it will be Fiona and Laura that make it happen!

Janet C. said...

I applaud you, Helena, for having two heroines. And mother and daughter - that will not be an easy task. But I think, from what I've read, you'll handle it very well.

Is Laura going to make an appearance over on the other blog? I would love to see how you create that same/different quality that most mothers and daughters have. Have you considered making this more of a woman's fiction that straight romance? With the generational thing happening, you could sway that way - giving both women equal voice in telling their story.

Oh, brainstorming again. Thanks for your compliments, Helena. I'm looking forward to reading more about Fiona and Laura soon.


Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, finally checking back in now that I'm home and done some reading. Long day!

My impression of Gillian was very much that she strives to please, bends and twists herself around to accommodate others, and has her sights on the splotches on her pants (so to speak) rather than the world around her.. since Mac felt so compelled to 'warn' her about the interview. She seems like she's somewhat led by others in her life, and accustomed to the position on that end of the leash. That's what prompted me to ask whether she'd have a harder time asking permission or apologizing. Not so much for the answer, as for whether it came out of embarrassment, shyness, arrogance, etc. She's ready to apologize, unnecessarily perhaps, but hesitant to speak up for her own desires.

That's what I get from her from what I've seen so far. I'd love to see a little selfish trait pop up in her. She has flaws, for sure, but they're 'good' flaws :) Some little selfish trait like laziness, or indulgence in sweets or trashy tv could prompt a nice contrast.

I think heroes with a strong, decisive presence can potentially make the heroine passive. When the guy may be inclined to taking action and sweeping her off her feet, it becomes easier for the character to stand there and let him. I know I've found a lot of little moments where I realized my main character wasn't taking action, DaHannen was doing all the work, and I don't want to turn her into some feckless damsel. I don't have a huge exposure to romance fiction, but that's a trend I notice sometimes, the author trying to balance the strong heroine of a modern story with some good old fashion swoon-action. It results in women who go out and swing swords (my few forays into romance are, no surprises, 'historical')... but as soon as Mr Sexy comes along, they go limp and weak and swoon in his arms. Perhaps when I have time to read for myself again, I'll find a kickass heroine who takes what she wants rather than needing to be the recipient :)

But that's neither here nor there. Just mulling proactive women and their passive ancestors because we're studying pulp fiction in 204: The History and Future of the Book