Monday, June 30, 2008

Wingmen and Promises Fulfilled

Being a female reader, I tend to take notice of the male secondary characters more often than the female, so forgive me if I focus on the guys more than the girls in this post. In high school, I never fell for the captain of the football team or the Homecoming King. Instead, I inevitably always developed a huge crush on his best friend. Now some (number not to be said aloud) years later, I’m still doing the same thing. In most of the books I read, its not the dashing hero I fall in love with, it’s the second male lead, be he the hero’s best friend, brother, cousin, sidekick, or crime fighting partner. Nope, I don’t go gaga over Batman, I’m sweet on Robin. You can have Robin Hood, I want Will Scarlet. Forget about Maverick, I want The Goose. You got it. I don’t go for the pilot, I fall for his wingman.

I don’t need a character analysis to know why that is. In most books, the hero is the ultimate alpha male--strong, serious, often tortured. While that might do it for some, for me the attraction lies elsewhere. It’s the secondary male lead who usually sweeps me off my feet, mainly because he’s a foil for the hero. Where the hero is often stiff and rigid, the wingman is laid back and at ease. Where the hero is dark and brooding, the wingman is funny and charming. The secondary male character brings to life those fantastic and often humorous scenes that bring the cocky hero back down to earth. He humanizes the leading man, often taking perverse pleasure in the past and present mistakes the hero makes in his pursuit of the heroine. He’s the one person who can give the hero a reality check without fear of getting punched out for his efforts--most of the time.

Now while I love those strapping secondary men, a big pet peeve I have about them getting their own books is when they change from one book to the next. I hate when I fall in love with them as the funny wingman in the first book, and then suddenly he becomes the tortured and serious hero when he steps into the spotlight in his own book. What happened to him? Where’d the humor go? Where’s the twinkling eyes, the charming grin? Why did he change on me?

Another issue authors face is reader expectation. Secondary characters need to live up to the high potential set up for them in the previous book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book, fallen head-over-heels for the wingman, rushed out to buy his story only to be majorly let down. How could such an intriguing character, who managed to capture my attention in only a handful of pages, get such a lame follow-up story? What was the author thinking? A fascinating secondary character deserves an equally fascinating story of his own.

When it comes to secondary characters demanding their own stories, Acheron Parthenopaeus of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series is probably the most anticipated secondary character in the history of paranormal romance (his story is coming out Aug. 8th -- squeeee!). Though he’s been a player in almost all of the Dark-Hunter books, Kenyon has done a brilliant job of keeping Ash’s story a deep, dark secret--from both readers and from the other characters in the series. It only makes us want to know him more. Fans have been clamoring for his story ever since he first came on stage with his ever-changing hair and silver eyes and now, after some 20 odd Dark-, Dream, and Were-Hunter books, Ash’s story is about to unfold. Why has it taken Kenyon so long to tell his story? Probably because reader expectation for this character is so high, he needs a PHENOMENAL story for him. Will Kenyon succeed? I sure hope so. Apparently Acheron’s story is so big, she’s had to break it into two books. Ooo, I can’t wait!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I want my own book (or when supporting players demand top billing)

So you're writing your novel and a secondary character starts to whisper in your ear. Don't tell me it doesn't happen or there would be no romance single title series set in the same universe.

This particular problem happens to me a lot. I'm writing diligently and my secondary character (usually one of the guys) starts trying to seduce me away from the hero. At the moment I start to feel the lure, I know I need to write faster. I wrote a flash fiction piece about it titled Holding Out for a Hero, right here on our blog. Unfortunately for Gorgeous Godwin, Fierce Falc' presented a little stronger, so Godwin will have to wait a bit before he gets his "happily ever after."

The weird thing is that I don't usually plan it. I'm in love with the hero I'm writing and a bit jealous of the heroine. The action in the story requires a friend or sibling then bam! The minor character will start asking for his own book. Sometimes its MORE than one character who prods me. It's highly disconcerting to have so many voices running around in my head clamoring for their time in the spotlight.

Now, I know some authors out there purposely plant their next hero in the book on which they are working. They want readers to become invested in the character so that when they write "The End" on the current story, readers are looking for "Once upon a time," in the next but I don't do it on purpose. It would be nice if I were that concise a planner, but because I'm more of a pantser (plotting by the seat of my pants), characters step forward to introduce themselves to me as I write.

The hero whose story I just finished started out life as a villain. You heard that right. He was a villain. Why haven't you seen that story somewhere? Because he didn't work as the villain. I kept trying to make him do bad things, then I'd soften him up and give him good reasons for his actions. Why? Because Eaduin kept whispering in my ear. He told me over and over, I'm no villain. I'm just misunderstood. I thought, yeah right, you're a villain and all bad guys feel that way. But no, he told me he knew better. And the sad part is...he did and now I love Eaduin.

Oh, and a word of warning to fellow writers who don't think I'm crazy at this point in the post. Give even your villains names you like. I named Eaduin (pronounced Edwin) because I wasn't fond of the name and I thought to myself - what is the name I would NEVER use for one of my heroes so I don't waste a "good name" on my bad guy? What did I decide? Yeah, Eaduin. Sigh. Now, after writing over 100,000 words about the guy, I'm rather fond of the name. But still... Did I consider changing his name when I made him a hero? Not really. Eaduin is a medieval name and by that time, the name fit him well. Anyway, once I bestow a name it sticks. Not always, but usually.

As I wrote Eaduin's story, two male secondaries and one female secondary started poking me with a stick. As a result, one of the males and the female secondary character will be sharing the next book I work on. Yes, Fierce Falc' and a lady. Godwin will have to stew a bit but then he's next. He's REALLY peeved at me, but it's his heroine's fault. I can't quite get her pinned down, so Falc's story is next.

When you're writing do your secondary characters start asking for the limelight? Do they want to be front and center in a story about them so you feel compelled to make it happen? Or are you one of those authors that plans a story with a strong secondary who will be your next book after this one is done? Share your opinions, cause I wanna know. :-)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

13 Killer Suggestions for Creating Secondary Characters

13 Killer Suggestions for
Secondary Characters

This week we’re discussing secondary characters. Talia wrote an excellent post on reasons your stories should include them. Secondary characters can be enormously useful, providing humor, moving the plot along, and revealing the hero and heroine’s personality or history through interaction.
But it’s summer. Hot weather is here and you’ve just put your all into creating your main characters. In an effort to help you come up with killer secondary characters, I’d like to offer these 13 possibilities (One through six are gleaned from Leigh Micheal’s “On Writing Romance,” and 7-13 are collected from James N. Frey’s “The Key.”)

As with all the books from which I borrow information, I heartily recommend you give the original texts a read. They’re good references chocked full of helpful advice.

Thirteen Killer Suggestions for Creating Secondary Characters

1) The Significant Third. This person is almost a main character and usually supplies the source of conflict between the main characters. Often he or she is a child or dependent. Leigh Michael gives an example of a sick father that the heroine hires a nurse to care for.
2) The Villain
3) The Other Woman/ The Rival. She desires the prize – and is intent on claiming it before the heroine.
4) The Wrong Man. Although the heroine and reader know this guy isn’t “right” for the heroine, the Wrong Man doesn’t. He continues to pursue her, creating multiple problems.
5) Meddlesome Relatives
6) Best Friends. Well meaning or not, they often volunteer information that advances the plot.
7) A Magical Helper. This is the person who, like Q in the James Bond series, equips the heroine/hero for adventure.
8) The Wise One. This person gives advice, often wise counsel. She/he might be the best friend or even one of those meddlesome relatives.
9) The Trickster. This might be a con man or a fast talker. In the “Wizard of Oz,” this is the professor that Dorothy meets when she runs away from home.
10) The Fool. Usually in the beginning of the book, this character spouts nonsense and no one takes him or her seriously, but by the end of the tale this character surprisingly turns out to have unexpected wisdom.
11) The Shape-Shifter. This character doesn’t actually have to change shape. It’s really that he or she alters appearance within the tale. Cinderella is a shape-shifter. Within her home, she’s dressed in rags, but when she attends the prince’s ball, she looks like a princess.
12) The Crone. An old woman, she may be evil -- like the witch in “Snow White” --or she may be misunderstood like the Witch of the Wastes in “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

13) The Nymph. This character is a beautiful, young thing who may be a flirt, but doesn’t have to be. The childlike empress of Fantastica in “The Never-Ending Story,” seems to fit this classification.

Of course there are a lot more characters and archetypes you can write into your stories. More are mentioned in “The Key,” and “On Writing Romance” -- and I bet you have suggestions. Please share your favorite secondary characters. And tell us why.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sidekicks Unite!

I'm not really sure why I'm such an unabashed fan of sidekicks--I mean, the spotlight always seems to shine on the hero and heroine. Secondary characters like the heorine's best friend or the hero's younger brother are always fascinating to me. When I sat down to analyze my preference for the sidekick, I realized a few things about myself:

1. Sidekicks often provide the humor in a story. Since humor plays a vital role in the stories I write, it isn't surprising that I am drawn to these little gems. They ease tension and the give the reader a chance to catch her breath before the momentum of the hero and heroine builds to the next crescendo. Everyone needs an intermission.

2. Sidekicks provide great backstory. As a self-proclaimed backstory slut, I will gladly sit at the knee of any sidekick and listen with rapt attention every initmate detail of the hero/heroine's unhappy childhood, grossly embarassing adolescence or rocky love- challenged adulthood. Sidekicks are the gabsters--freely sharing their knowledge to any and everyone who'll listen. They are the story's grapevine (hearing all the best rumors), the hero's sounding board (listening when the rest of the world has written the hero off as a jerk of the first degree) and even the reader's mouthpiece (If you're reading a romance and thinking, "Hero, don't do that!" chances are a page or two later, the sidekick will say it.)

3. Sidekicks reveal the h/h by showing a relationship dynamic. Remember when your mom told you that you can learn a lot about people by the friends they choose? Well, that's true in stories, too. The pairing of hero with sidekick can become a study in counterpoints which leads again to backstory. If the hero is reserved and the sidekick is chatty, why are they friends? Why would Alpha tall, dark and brooding put up with Beta short, fair and gabby? Is blood really thicker than water? Are friends really the family you choose rather than are born into?

4. Sidekicks can save the sagging middle. As a writer, thank the stars for sidekicks. They provide the subplot that lifts the middle of a story out of a quagmire of words and pushes the story forward. While the hero and heroine are getting their acts together, I love a little one on one with a sidekick to stir the soup of story development.

So who is/are my favorite secondary characters? Julia Quinn's Bridgerton siblings. All of them are sidekicks/ secondary characters in each other's stories. JQ does a brilliant job of present the same episode in the POV of one sibling and then revisiting that same instant in time in another book from the POV of a different sibling. That is a thing of beauty because just like every reader brings her own baggage to a story, so does every character. Seeing that baggage from different angles is fun and enlightening.

So long live the sidekicks!


Monday, June 23, 2008

Basic Types of Secondary Characters

We've addressed heroes and heroines, and this biweek at the Diner we'll be taking a look at the other characters in your romance novel beyond the protagonists -- the secondary characters.

Secondary characters come in all shapes and sizes and have varying roles to play in your book. There are three degrees of participation: walk-ons, speaking roles, and major players.

Walk-ons are random passers by, crowd members, servers who bring ice tea but don't ask if you want sugar, and strangers in the airport who give your hero or heroine funny looks. Walk-ons are primarily filler since most of our characters live in worlds that have other people in them; to neglect to include any WOs at all would create a very strange environment. Not that there's anything wrong with strange.

Speaking roles are a little more complex. These are the characters who interact with other characters, either to increase realism or conduct important, yet subtle, conversations or actions that move the plot forward. A little old lady may compliment your hero and heroine for being such a cute couple when they aren't together. The ice tea server from earlier may spill the ice tea, enrage the villian, and villianous hijinks result. A character's family member may be added to the mix in order to increase conflict or show that the character doesn't live in a vacuum.

Then you have the major players. These are speaking roles of prominence, the parts all secondary characters hope they get. There's more pay-off, you see, because a major player gets to display personality and influence the plot in ways walk-ons and mere speaking roles don't. They might even get a character arc! Being an MP increases the chances they'll (a) have sex; (b) develop a fan base; and (c) get their own books. The difference between a speaking role and a major player is the amount they appear in the narrative, and some MPs have been known to take over the book. That's definitely something to watch out for with MPs, even when they're "minor" ones.

Since there is no NAG union (Novel Actors Guild), there are no minimum wages you have to pay and no requirements as to the amount of work characters can do in your plot. You can force them to work long hours, they do their own stuntwork, and they will take their clothes off without extra compensation if your plot calls for it. No other authors can steal them away for higher wages--they're yours to do with as you wish. In fact, even when they're intriguing, you're under no obligation to give them a spin-off book if you don't feel like it.

However, you do need to remember which characters your story is about -- your protagonists -- and make sure the juiciest bits are tossed their way or your plot and character arcs may feel unbalanced or unconvincing.

Stay tuned for two more Diner style weeks of gabbing and blogging about secondary characters!

Jody W.
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Coming 7/15 from Samhain Publishing
(In which the secondary characters definitely try to take over the book....)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Living Vicariously

In my not so very humble opinion, the heroine is the most important part of a romance novel. The plot, setting, the minor characters, even the hero pales in comparison to the heroine. In a romance novel, she the center of the universe.

The plot is the structure of the story, it’s the framework that allows the h/h to meet, have conflicts, overcome obstacles, and eventually fall in love. The setting is the background onto which the plot is set. The minor characters provide color and clarity. All of these things are the basics, the foundation onto which the novel is built. They’re crucial elements, but not the most crucial.

And then there’s the hero, the other major character. Listen to a group of romance fans for very long, and you’ll hear all about the heroes. His physical attributes are important. His personality is endlessly discussed. Our hearts beat faster just thinking about a romance hero. If the book works, we can fall in love with him right along with the heroine.

Which brings us back to what I was saying earlier. All these elements are important. Everything works together to construct a whole. But without the heroine, everything falls apart. The plot can be intricate and interesting, the setting colorful and fascinating, the minor characters wonderful, and the hero handsome and sexy. But if the heroine is too stupid to live, or if she’s an air-head, or a whining baby who depends on the hero to get her out of every problem, then all the other things don’t matter anymore. We can’t identify, and the book won’t work.

Conversely, we can forgive a lot if the heroine is spectacular. Haven’t we all read books in which the plot is thin, the setting mundane, the hero and minor characters uninteresting. But if the heroine is strong, interesting, and life-like, we’re able to forgive the other problems and get some enjoyment from the book regardless.

Because we like and identify with the heroine. We, as readers, become one with her. We go on adventures with her; we get a peek into her life. And we fall in love with her.

And isn’t that the whole point of a romance novel?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No Penlights and Whining

Everyone has written such wonderful posts for this bi-week, I found it hard to add anything. I was going to post about the type of heroine I love, but the annoying part of my brain kept nagging at me saying "C'mon, Maggie, be bold, be a rebel. Take this opportunity to b*tch."

Who am I to argue with my brain?

We've all seen the TSTL heroine Lori posted about yesterday. You know, the gal who hears a loud crash so she grabs a flashlight, throws on her robe and hurries to investigate. She finds a broken window, sticks her head outside, glances around and shrugs. Probably just the wind. Then she turns to find a knife-wielding maniac behind her. Somehow, she's always surprised that her penlight doesn't hold up against a machete.

But even worse is the self-centered heroine. I'll give two examples.

The first one comes from a book I recently read. The heroine is 40+ and discovers she's pregnant. Okay, kinda scary, a little earthshaking, but this gal took it way too far. I believe the plot was, she's pregnant at 40 and isn't sure if her marriage can survive it. Uh...huh? This heroine is married to the perfect guy (gag me) he worships the ground she walks on, offers 100% support and yet she doesn't know if she can forgive him for getting her pregnant. Am I missing something? When did it become the guys fault when your choice of birth control fails?

The second one is a little more subtle but just as nauseating. The whinny martyr. This heroine has the mob after her and the hero (an FBI agent) is protecting her. In the end, they get the bad guys but not before the hero gets shot. He's fine, of course, nothing life-threatening, but the heroine decides his family must hate her for making the hero do his job and getting shot in the process.

Basically this is how the dialog went. Of course, it's in my own words, so no one panic :)

"I must go. Your family hates me."
"No, they don't hate you. It's not your fault."
"Yes, it's all my fault. I must leave."
"No, really, I just spoke to my mom and she's so happy we're in love."
"Oh, how she must hate me. I don't know how they can even look at me."

Okay, you get the idea. At this point, I'd not only help with her luggage, I'd drive her to the airport and make sure she got on thee damn plane! Everything is about her. Because of HER, the hero got shot. Because of HER, they can't be happy, etc..

So be kind to your heroine. Give her a brain, a backbone and compassion, but for God sakes give her more than a penlight!


Monday, June 16, 2008

My Favorite Witch

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.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Heroines - All Shapes and Sizes

When I first started reading romances, all heroines were gorgeous and thin...they possessed the requisite slender waist and perky bosom.. Now, for you ladies that fit that mold, I'm happy for you but I never looked like that. Reading those romances often reinforced the feeling I had as a young woman that only thin and pretty girls got the guy.

I read those books when I was in my twenties and loved them. They inspired me to hope I might one day write books and I have no bones with the authors who wrote the stories I loved back then. Still I wondered, "where is a heroine like me?" Where are the heroines with wide hips, full busts, and legs that aren't long and lean?

As I grew older and my thoughts turned to writing, I didn't immediately decide to "break the mold" with my heroines. I tried to write about slender heroines. Women with waists whom a man's hands could span. Heroines with legs that didn't rub together. Alas...I had major trouble. Why? The last time anyone could span my waist with his hands or my legs didn't rub together, I think I was about...three? Five? Probably around five. I've been fat all my life. Yo-yo weight for better living through yo-yo dieting, but I was usually fatter than thinner. As much as I loved the stories and the sexy heroes I had trouble relating to the thinner heroines.

One thing writers hear when they are getting started is: "write what you know." Well, I don't know thin. I have thin friends, but I've fought my weight all my life to be thin. I never was thin. At best, I was pleasingly plump. That translated to paper, because when I tried to write thin heroines they didn't feel authentic. Probably because I've never inhabited a small body.

So what's a writer to do? Write fat.

Yup, I decided I would write plus-size heroines and even if no one read the stories but me, at least I would recognize the women I wrote about. My heroines are big girls. Some have issues with their weight and believe they aren't beautiful, so they work through those issues. Others know they are fine and expect everyone around them to acknowledge it too. It's fun to explore those issues. Especially now. Why?

The times they are a-changing. Twenty some years ago the acronym BBW entered the lexicon because of a lifestyle and fashion magazine for plus-size women that did very well. It was considered revolutionary because in the 1960s the fashion industry made Twiggy the image of the perfect girl. In the 70s, they moved on to Farrah and so on... It may have taken awhile but change is coming to the fashion industry. Last year, Dove soap created their revolutionary ad which features women of all shapes and colors as beautiful. And this year, America's Next Top Model actually crown it's first plus-size winner, Whitney.

Of course, Whitney is actually a normal size girl, but by the standards of the fashion industry, she's plus-size. I admit I was glued to the show this year, but I really didn't expect her to win because plus-size models in other cycles were dumped early. Somehow Whitney made it through and it's wonderful. Wonderful that we can recognize that ALL women are beautiful.

How does that make it easier for me to write my BBW heroines? Publishers recognize that heroines come in all shapes and sizes, too. Ellora's Cave features a Rubenesque genre category and Loose-Id are very open to BBW (big, beautiful women) heroines. When I was in my twenties (many years ago), it was unusual to find a big girl as a heroine. And if she started out big, she had to lose weight to get the boy. Now, that's just not the way.

It's wonderful that as writers we are given the freedom to make our heroines exactly who they are...fat, thin, or somewhere in between. It's a good thing.

Friday, June 13, 2008

True Heroines

Heroines. The very word courses through my thoughts to Shakespeare’s “short dark daughter” Hero from Much Ado About Noting. The interesting thing to about the character of Hero is that her woman’s role was to stand submissive and allow things to happen around her. Not at all the heroic archetype! There is more strength in a
women hero than the word Heroine can inject.

When we talk about woman heroes I think of Amsterdam’s Miep Gies, India’s Mother Theresa, China’s American teacher Minnie Vautrin, or Ireland’s Mairead Corrigan. These women, like so many women heroes are women of peace, involved in a war not their own. These women share the same quiet spirit many other women share, but have risen against unbearable odds to hold their own against the evil they saw around them.

Like France’s Jeanne D’Arc, most had rather “sit by their mother’s side and spin” than to do what they did. Most of them did not see what they did as particularly heroic. Most of them threw their arms wide to embrace and protect people who were not of their race, religion or nationality.

Viennese born Miep Gies, protected the Jewish-German Frank family for whom she worked, from the Nazis (Anne Frank’s family,) managing to feed, cloth, and cheer the several hidden Jewish families in the old annex, for several long years of WWII. At the same time, she hid a young Jewish man from the Nazi’s in her own home through out the war as well. How did she find the fortitude to do what she did? How did she find it within her to defy the Nazi’s and face possible death, certain internment?

Minnie Vautrin, an American teacher at the University in Nanking before WWII sheltered hundreds of Chinese women and children from the invading Japanese soldiers, saving them from the horrendous atrocities pressed on them by the Japanese men. How did she cut through her teacher’s heart to stand between, sometimes literally, aggressive Japanese soldiers and the women they wanted?

Secretary Mairead Corrigan was not an activist before three of her sister’s children were run down in a car by Irish militant Danny Lennon. A month later she and eye witness Betty Williams led 35,000 Irish people on the streets in a peace march for all of Ireland.
Miep, Minnie and Mairead all have the same spirit in common, and the same ideals. Regardless of their own genetic background they believe in a future of peace, justice, equality and freedom. Their hearts propelled them to where the steel swords of men can not go. Their women’s values of family put them beyond the wars of men and allowed them to reach half way across the world for peace. The word heroine does not do justice to the strength and determination of these women heroes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thirteen Favorite Fictional Heroines

Last week we discussed our favorite heroes. Surely, I thought, women deserve equal time. So this week I’m listing my favorite heroines (in no particular order).
Drum roll, please. …

Thirteen Favorite Fictional Heroines

1.) Betsy Taylor. She’s a former model, now an unemployed secretary, who at 30 finds herself unmarried, “undead” and possibly Queen of the Vampires. She’s funny, has great shoes and a series of books feature her.
2.) Aza from “Fairest,” who proves you don’t have to be beautiful or tiny to get the guy and win the kingdom.
3.) Aerin from “The Hero and the Crown”. She seems real and vulnerable. Although she’s clearly gifted, she succeeds by working hard.
4.) Sybel, from, “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.” She’s beautiful, complex and magical. Although she lives for revenge, she learns to love.
5.) Snake from “Dream Snake”. I loved the whole snake-handler, healer thing.
6.) Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame because she can do all those things I wish I could.

7) Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”. As a regular girl, she lives her fantasy and has the happy ending I never get tired of reading.
8.) Cordelia, created by Lois McMaster Bujold. Cordelia’s an intelligent, determined woman who is the best problem-solver in the series. She’s the kind of leader those under her can’t help but respect.
9.) Estraven from “The Left Hand of Darkness.” While not actually a woman, he’s an example of true friendship.
10.) Princess Susannah from “A Spell for Susannah.” She’s plucky and smart.
11.) Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich’s series. Stephanie can eat whatever she wants and she still has two hunky guys chasing after her.
12.) Aislinn from “The Wolf and the Dove.” She and Wulfgar make me love romance.
13.) Nuella from “Dragon’s Kin.” She and her watch-wher, a smaller version of a dragon, do something amazing to conquer the darkness and make the mines of Pern safer.

These are my favorites, but I know there’s a lot more heroines out there. Please share a favorite with me. I’m looking for new reading material. Thanks.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone
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Monday, June 9, 2008

Let's Hear It For The Girls!

Last cycle we talked about our favorite heroes, starting today we're giving the ladies their due. Go, Ladies!!!

True confession time here. Personally, I find it far more difficult to write my heroines than my heroes. For me heroes are a no-brainer. I know what characteristics I like in a man and I know what I don't like but can redeem in a man. Writing heroes, isn't only's fun.

Heroines, however, require more in skill. As an authors I must identify with my heroines but but keep her believably human becasue perfect people make for dull reading. I have a harder time being mean to my ladies. Living in their skin can be uncomfortable because often their struggles mirror my own and who wants to revisit the bumps and bruises of life even on paper?

Another difficulty with writing heroines is my status as mom. I have daughters and I am very aware of the responisbility that comes with creating a heroine that women (especially young women) identify with. I know firsthand that a great heroine can inspire a change--even if that change is fostering a love for the written word.

A good hero may be hard to forget, but a good heroine like a good friend can help you through the difficult times, inspire you to better things, and remind you of your real priorities.
So here's to the heroines who overcome and find their happily ever after and to the wonderful authors who write them!



Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thirteen Favorite Literary Heroes

In the spirit of our All About Heroes bi-week, here are a list of 13 favorite literary heroes, as selected by Otherworld Diner staff. In no particular order:

1) Schmendrick the Magician from The Last Unicorn. He a nice guy who possesses great magic, but for most of his story it doesn't work for him.

2) Jesse Best from Pamela Morsi's SIMPLE JESS. Tall, strong and handsome, he's also a bit slow because of oxygen deprivation at birth. But what he lacks for in brains is more than made up for with a heart the size of a mountain.

3) Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. He's everything a wizard should be--mysterious, wise and magical.

4) Don Giovanni Scarletti from The Scarletti Curse by Christine Feehan. The hero is mysterious and dangerous, passionate and loving. This book is very different from Feehan's "Dark" series but the hero is compelling and exciting. This is a book I will pull out to reread every so often. Definitely the sign of a good story and a thrilling hero.

5) Aragorn, the movie version. He's passionate, loyal, and he'll die for his friends and lovers. Who could ask for more?

6) Colin Bridgerton from Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. He may not be a paranormal hero but a wonderfully funny gamma hero guy. As the third Bridgerton son, he is defined by a mischevious sense of humor in adversity and I am a sucker for that. His heroine, Penelope, is one of my JQ favorites, too.

7) Drustan for Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning. Drustan is the equivalent of a Scottish volcano and KMM does the alpha male soooo very well. Stubborn, powerful but dedicated to his responsibilities to family and clan, I'm sure I'm not the first woman who will start searching for hidden caves holding uber-sexy Scottish lairds.

8) Hades from Goddess of Spring by PC Cast. Being the god is not all its cracked up to be and being the god of the dead entails more than you might think. Hades is darkly handsome and brooding but with some very good reasons and he is actually much deeper emotionally than most of his Olympian counterparts. An artist who appreciates beauty, intelligence, and commitment, this hero is literally to "die" for.

9) Zarek - Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dance with the Devil. Just because!

10) Christian Langland from Laura Kinsale's FLOWERS FROM THE STORM. A brilliant man and notorious rake brought low by a cerebral hemorrhage, which leaves him with impaired motor skills, loss of speech and memory, and tossed into an insane asylum.

11) Fantastic Mr. Fox from Roald Dahn's book of the same name. He's a wonderful father and husband, has a great sense of humor, is obviously intelligent since he outsmarted all the local farmers in order to provide a feast, and was a successful revolutionary when he arranged for the entire community of underground animals to be free of the tyranny of the farmers (who, if you know what to look for, represent the 7 deadly sins).

12) Rupert Carsington from Loretta Chase's Mr. Impossible. A big, strong man who comes across as a good-natured dummy--but underneath the façade he's sexy, capable, agreeable, loyal and clever.

13) Neville Longbottom from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. He wasn't Harry Potter, the primary hero, and he wasn't Ron Weasley, the obvious secondary hero, but in the end, he did his part to save everyone and, due to his strength of character, was the only one who could have done it. Noble, loyal, smart, brave and deserving. Two cheers for Neville!


I'm off to the Lori Foster Readers and Writers Get Together for the week-end, along with Diner-mate Cheryel, so I'll leave you in the capable hands of the Diner staff.

Jody W.
So much cyberspace, so little time! *

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Going both I don't mean THAT

We've talked about the many types of heroes over the last week. But what if one hero type merges with another?

Take for example, a hero who is shy with woman and doesn't know how to argue if he tried. Here's an example of when a hero jumps from one type to another. This has been edited to a PG rating :)

“You’re so cute.” Colleen pinched Jake's cheek before running her hand over his head. “I’m going to get us something to drink.”

He stared at the video game they'd been playing and frowned. “Wait a minute. Did she just pinch my cheek and muss my hair?”

“Jake?” she called from the kitchen, “I’m out of iced tea. Would you like chocolate milk and cookies?”

He jumped to his feet and his jaw dropped. “Oh, that’s it!”

Slamming the controller onto the bed, he stomped out of the family room and into the kitchen.

Colleen studied him as he approached. “I asked if you--”

He grabbed her arm and pulled her to him. “Jake,” was as far as she got before his lips came down on hers.

“So,” he said when he came up for air. “You think I’m a kid, do you?”

Colleen didn’t get a chance to answer as he leaned her against the counter and moved his body between her thighs. Shock waves of sexual desire spread throughout her like a lit fuse.

“Does that feel like a kid to you?”

“Oh, God,” she cried out as he swept her into his arms. “What the hell are you doing?”

Jake marched from the kitchen to her bedroom. “I’m going to show you once and for all I’m not a kid!"
To me there's nothing yummier than a beta hero who comes to the rescue or an alpha who kneels down to his beloved. I like to mix and match. It's keeps the reader on her toes.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Tortured Heroes

We’ve talked Alphas. We’ve talked Betas. We’ve talked Warriors. Now I’m going to tell you about my favorite type of hero: The Tortured Hero. He’s the one who’s been to hell and back and has the blisters, burns, and a pocket full of ashes to show for it. In all my reading, I’ve never met anyone more scarred and tormented than Zarek, from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s DANCE WITH THE DEVIL.

Zarek started out in life as no child should--as the illegitimate whipping boy for his half-brothers in Greco-Rome. He was abused and tormented, both emotionally and physically, by his family and all around him. Constantly lashed, beaten and half-blinded for the things his malicious brothers deliberately did, he was also forced to eat dog feces and clean cesspits and--at the end of his horrid, degrading life--blamed for a crime he didn’t commit. By the time he was stoned to death, he was so physically maimed and deformed from the harsh abuse heaped on him, that he couldn’t raise his arms to shield himself. If anyone deserved a second chance at life and happiness, it was Zarek. He got the life part, but unfortunately, not the happiness.

While he may be physically transformed, Zarek is still as mentally and emotionally scarred as he was the day he became an immortal Dark-Hunter. Having known neither happiness nor kindness in either life, pissing people off is the only thing that gives him pleasure (his words, not mine). He figures if no one can love him, he’s going to make damn sure they all have a good reason to hate him. He lashes out at everyone, more a cornered, rabid animal than a man. He’s antisocial, combative, and borderline psychotic. If he wasn’t immortal, he’d be suicidal. Well, in some ways perhaps he is. He has a tendency to bring trouble on himself, to deliberately do things to cause people to hate him, probably because it’s the only type of human interaction he’s ever known. So what’s not to like about him?

To be honest, not much. Or so you’d think from the glimpses you get of his character in Kenyon’s earlier Dark-Hunter novels. In those, you wonder if there is anything even remotely redeemable about him. Turns out, there is. Banished to the remote wilds of Alaska for his anti-social behavior, he spends his time alone in his isolated cabin carving intricate works of art out of wood that he gives away to be auctioned to help the poor. He gives up his wood stove (his only source of heat) to a wild mink that decided it was a good place to have her pups. He looks out for a single mom and her daughter in the nearest town, clears the snow from the elderly’s walkways and carves elaborate ice sculptures in the dead of night for the townsfolk to enjoy. But don’t tell anyone. He doesn’t want anyone to know he has a nice side. Come to think of it, I don’t think he realizes he does. At least not until a blind nymph who can see beyond the tormented darkness to the tender man within comes along and falls in love with Zarek, just like I did. Tortured heroes…no one deserves to be loved more than they do.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Hero By Any Other Name

My heroes are many, but two of my favorites are Harry Dresden (The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher) and Repairman Jack (The Tomb, F.Paul Wilson). These men are not your typical hero. In fact, both admit to many shortcomings. Harry is the only advertised wizard in the Chicago phone book, and gets some of the weirdest phone calls. He's smart and he's talented, and he finds solutions to some of the most unusal problems you can imagine (like how not to get bitten by vampires or how to trap faeries - little ones, anyway).

Repairman Jack, too, is an unusual hero. He doesn't want to be "on the grid," so he keeps his money in gold and his answering machine message anonymous. He's run across giant bugs and evil magic, and he's still been able to find love and acceptance while battling things most people don't want to know about.

We've all got our heroes - male and female. When we write, we try to create a memorable, likable character who will stay in the minds of our readers long after they've closed the book. We want them to want to know more about our characters, want to know more about us, our writing and why we can come up with such interesting people...all because we, ourselves, want to write. Heroes are all around us - we may be heroes ourselves, and heroes are an important part of the worlds we live in - real or imagined.