Friday, November 18, 2005

Heroines of Every Variation

I find myself with some time on my hands this afternoon. Rather than playing endless games of sporecubes (why can't I win?!), I thought I'd do a thoughtful and useful blog post. Seriously.

We've talked about romance heroes often on this blog but not about heroines. Gee, I wonder why the fixation with heroes? But let's remedy that today and talk about the women we write and the ones we read. If there are certain types of male characters that are prevalent, then there are also definitely certain types of female ones, good and bad.

At the top of most readers' hitlist is the TSTL heroine (Too Stupid To Live). This is the woman who knows that there is a monster in the basement and yet will be compelled go to down to that basement so she can then be taken hostage (allowing the hero to be all heroic and rescue her). Often times, this kind of heroine will have people rooting for the monster. (She's very tasty! Eat her and save us from her!)

At the other end of the spectrum is the Kickass heroine, the one who takes no crap from anyone and is so tough, she can bend steel in half. Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but these women are super-tough. As a reader, though I enjoy their ability to take on the hero, some of them I find too tough. A little touch of feminity would be nice to go with all that badassness.

Somewhere in the middle is the innocent-miss heroine. She often turns up in historicals. A pampered and often young character, she is very naive about the world but has a heart of gold. Strangely, these heroines usually morph very quickly into smart, witty women. I admit, I like these heroines, even though some suspension of disbelief is required.

Then there's the perfect woman. She is literally perfect. Beams of sunshine surround her head and every so often, angels break out in arias around her. These heroines drive me round the bend. The only way I can deal with them is to begin imagining some sort of convulted multiple personality for them. No one is perfect! I will say that very occasionally, they can be used effectively. For example, in stories where a woman thinks she has the perfect life and then it all comes crashing down. The rest of the book shows us the real character, warts and all.

I picked those four types out of the air, drawing from my experience as both a reader and a writer (my heroines are all, of course, absolutely wonderful *g*), but they don't encompass the entire range. Do you have any of your own personal favorite types? Any un-favorite types? ;)


Laura said...

Hmmm, great post Nalini. I'm not much for Archetypes but you're right, there are those heroines we love, and those we love to hate. I recently finished a book where the heroine went from hot to cold to should I-shouldn't I to yes to no - literally from one page to the next. I couldn't relate with her at all, even though she was trying to sort through a major identity crisis. In the end, I just wanted to strangle her.

I love the kick-a$$ heroines and I really love the bad girls who discover something good and delicious about themselves (not talking appearance here). This so describes the heroine in the book I just sold!

In the end, for me at least, it depends on the story and what sort of heroine the plot and the hero-type call for. But TSTL heroines will, I'm sorry to say, never hook me.

Nalini Singh said...

I never really thought about the bad girls who discover something good about themselves. I'm going to have to go through my books to see if I can find some concrete examples. (p.s. Congratulations again on your sale!) :)

That's also a good point about what heroine is necessary for the hero and the story. A strong hero requires a strong heroine and when that doesn't happen, the story really loses its impact.