Since we’re talking about heroines this week, let me tell ya right off the bat that I can’t stand TSTL heroines (that’s Too Stupid To Live for those of you who don’t know). I just read a book that starred one and would have stopped reading at about page 60 to throw it against the wall if it hadn’t been a selected read for my book club (and wasn’t a hardcover library book to boot--hubby wouldn’t appreciate the big dent it would leave in the drywall). I simply can’t stand heroines who stumble their way through life on a giggle and a pretty face with a gapping black hole behind it where their brains should be. And I lost any attraction I had for the hero when he fell for this twit. Every time she was around, he lost use of all brain matter himself and shifted to thinking with the little one instead of the big one (if you know what I mean). I just can’t respect a guy who falls for gee-I’m-so-naïve-that-I-must-be-utterly-adorable-and-irresistable Barbie in a Regency gown.
Then there’s the heroine at the other end of the spectrum--the alpha female who can defuse a ticking time bomb in 23.9 seconds then kick the hero’s butt across the room with her big toe when he crosses the line. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the Zena Warrior Princess type. But being the couch potato that I am, I have a hard time identifying with any heroine who can slice and dice the villains one minute and pose for Victoria’s Secret the next.
I guess my ideal heroine is someone who falls in between the two. I like a heroine who’s soft on the outside but strong on the inside, intellectually and emotionally. Take Joyous Fiona MacQuarrie from Jill Barnett’s Bewitching. Yes, she’s a bumbling witch whose spells go more wrong than right. But she does it with such a wacky flair you can’t help but like her (who can forget the raining rose petals every time she makes love with the hero or the hilarious things that happen whenever she sneezes). She’s quirky, without being silly. She’s smart and can hold her own with the hero in the witty banter department. And while she may start out a bit inexperienced in the ways of the world, she learns her way quickly and solves her problems herself, not needing the hero to charge in to save her all the time (mainly because she doesn’t put herself into dangerous situations in the first place like the TSTL heroine often does). In fact, she manages to teach the hero a thing or two along the way.
Therein lies the magic of creating a likable heroine. Just as we create heroes we can fall in love with, we as women writers need to create heroines we can identify with, admire, and strive to be like. Women who are not trophies without an intelligent thought in their pretty heads or cold-hearted killer amazons running more on animal instinct than human emotion. Women we’d be glad to call our best friend and who deserve the dashing heroes we create. Bewitching was the first humorous paranormal I ever read and I instantly liked Joy MacQuarrie and her zany magic. While I claim no supernatural powers myself (otherwise my house would always be spotlessly clean and my manuscripts would magically write themselves) I can certainly identify with a heroine like her.