Dear Indie | Writing Female Characters Part 3: The Unlikely Heroine

Hi Indies! This will be the last post addressing just female characters/heroines, so I really hope I’ve covered everything. If not, please let me know in the comments below. Today I’m going to talk about writing the challenging heroine and then go over some of the common female character ‘types’ that we know and might be naturally drawn to.

WRITING A FEMALE LEAD/HEROINE THAT CHALLENGES YOU

Have you ever wondered how some heroines came to be? Ever read a book where the female protagonist wasn’t completely loveable, relatable or even likable, yet by the end of the book you still found yourself on her side?

As a reader, some of the most rewarding endings to a book can come simply from watching the evolution of the main heroine go from not-so-likable to an amazing woman who mostly redeems herself. The best example that comes to my mind immediately is the main character from The Girl on The Train. Sadly, I’ve yet to read the book, but even watching the movie, I couldn’t necessarily relate to this character based on all the things that made up who she was. I don’t want to include any spoilers, though so I’ll do this carefully.

In no possible way did I relate to this character for any of her ‘flaws’ or ‘traits’ or even ‘circumstances’ – yet I did relate to her as a woman with a shattered heart, even to her justifiable bitterness. I could relate to her panic, her need to remember things that might reveal she’s a more horrible person than she already fears she is. I could sympathize with her to a certain degree. But for a moment there in the midst of all the chaos, I felt my loyalty to her waiver. I felt my annoyance with her obsessive behavior increase, and I started doubting the integrity of her as a heroine, but by then I was already too invested in her to give up – and that really paid off.

It’s all thanks to the formula the author used to tell this heroine’s story. We’re given the opportunity to sympathize with her on many levels before we ever learn about her less than admirable habits. So, by the time her bad traits start rearing their ugly heads, we’re already invested in her good ones or the ones that make us feel some kind of connection to her. That’s damn good writing! 😀 But, imagine if ALL of our books had heroines like that? They would no longer stand out in our minds or have the ability to leave a lasting impact. These unique, unlikely heroines are undoubtedly the most challenging to write for an author. So how can we, as writers, successfully create this most challenging kind of female lead? Should we take everything I highlighted about Inspiration and Realism and toss it right out the window? Not exactly…

If you’re going to challenge yourself with an uncommon heroine, think opposites. Don’t ditch your sources of inspiration or your tools for realism, pick the ones you wouldn’t normally use. Write the things that make you uncomfortable, that goes against your sense of morality. Give your heroine just enough to make her sympathetic to your readers, but otherwise don’t attempt to make them fall in love with her like you usually would. That woman on the train was largely unlikable to the point where she didn’t even like herself, yet the author managed to convince her readers that she was worthy of their support.

I’m currently working on my first Dark Psychological Romance, and it is challenging me in every way imaginable, it’s quite out of my comfort zone. My main female lead is much like that woman on the train was for me: I can’t relate to her. I can only empathize with her. In order to work on my character, I can’t even ask myself what I would do in her situation. I have to rely on the most ‘realistic’ response or reaction I can possibly imagine for someone like her. It’s the most detached I’ve ever been from one of my female leads, yet I get her. I understand, perfectly, why she is the way she is. I can logically reason out that there’s no other way she could possibly be given her overall circumstances. But my logic and ability to reason doesn’t equal a relatable heroine.

My biggest challenge will be staying true to her character, while giving her ‘personal growths’ that will enable my readers to continue to root for her, even if a part of them knows they shouldn’t. She is never going to be 100% redeemable because it’s unrealistic to make her that way, which makes this all the more challenging. In essence I’m creating a kind of anti-heroine and hoping readers love her for it.

Of course, I’m not saying anyone should try to create a female lead who is that extremely removed from their norm. But, it can be a good exercise to try your hand a sketching out an unlikely heroine. It might even give you insight on all the different personality traits and character ‘types’ you’re usually drawn to. Which is a great segue for our next topic…

FEMALE CHARACTER/HEROINE TYPES We Know, Love & Hate

I mentioned that we’re naturally drawn to heroine ‘types’ for our inspiration, even if we don’t make the conscious decision to lean toward them, we do. No matter how submissive my female protagonists are for my BDSM novels, they’re never weak. They are not doormats. I am naturally drawn to strong, independent women. I idolize character types that are bad ass and intelligent with integrity above all others. But what do those types really mean? What is YOUR definition of bad ass, intelligent, and integrity? The truth is that you can take a single character “type” and use it to create half a dozen distinctively different heroines. Below is just a small example of what I mean.

The Bad Ass:

Character 1: This heroine is bad ass because she can fight physically, has weapons training, and perhaps she’s skilled in stealth, espionage and has other spy/assassin attributes. She can operate any vehicle and probably has her pilot’s license. She’s strategical and can usually out-smart her opponents. She’s very active, her life is one adventure after another. This example can also apply to the “magical” bad ass.

Character 2: This heroine is bad ass, because she’s got a spine of steel and she’s the rock others depend on in any given situation. She’s highly respected, a natural leader others look to for direction. She would sacrifice herself to save others, but she would never sacrifice her integrity or her morals. She’s scarred, but she uses those dark past incidents to make her stronger and a better person, rather than letting them crush her. Family is important to her, as is her unerring faith in human decency despite all that she knows and has seen.

Character 3: This heroine is bad ass because she doesn’t take anyone’s shit, can win in most physical fights, and usually has a more cynical outlook on the world. Yet, buried under all of her hard outer armor – she cares deeply. She’s intimidating, tough to crack, and even tougher to get to admit when she’s wrong, but her moral compass is dependable when push comes to shove. Some of her toughness comes from being in a leadership position like a detective, military commander, or even the captain of her own ship; she is equally feared and respected.

The Intellectual:

Character 1: This heroine might not be able to fight physically, but she can win debates and reason out major problems logically in a way that makes her intimidating to others. She’s either in a political position of power or another career responsible for directing others – and she had to knock down a few male egos to get there. She’s tough because she’s a woman in a man’s world, but is usually respected by most. She would, however, make enemies easily.

Character 2: This heroine’s intelligence is less aggressive in nature and even if she’s in a leadership position, she’s just as generous as she is smart, making it harder for people to dislike her. Her intelligence is most apparent in her quick wit, independent lifestyle, and ability to make the best decisions. She’s good at solving clues, mysteries, connecting dots and is likely the main puzzle-solver in her story.

Character 3: This heroine is sly, conniving, coy. She’s the manipulator, the one who knows exactly how to maneuver people into position to get exactly what she wants. She can either be smugly obvious or completely unexpected. Either way, people are charmed by her and usually fall right into her traps. She’s not always a bad guy, her ploys could be for the sake of the good. She could just as easily be a con-artist as an undercover agent, but guaranteed her mind works 10 paces ahead of everyone else’s.

The One With Integrity:

Character 1: This heroine’s integrity is her most obvious trait. Everyone around her knows she can’t be budged when it comes to her standards, morals, or beliefs. She’s usually relied upon by others, all of her strength emanating from within, rather than a physical show. People are drawn to her, and trust in her advice inexplicably. She might be a judge, her family’s matriarch, a lawyer, a case worker or psychiatrist. She would be in a position to guide and better people’s lives however she can.

Character 2: This heroine comes across as shy or even gullible, because she believes in the good in everyone she meets and is always looking on the bright side of every situation. She’s ridiculed for being naive and often comes across as inexperienced or sheltered. She hasn’t known too many hardships, hasn’t been victimized or exposed to the darker sides of humanity – yet, even when/if she is – she still clings to all of her positive beliefs. Her integrity is the core of her really good heart, and unerring faith that good will always triumph over evil.

Character 3: This heroine is blunt and honest to the point of making others uneasy around her. She doesn’t give two shits what others think about her and would rather be hated than ever pretend to be something she’s not. She’s got a tough outer exterior, because only someone as blunt and honest as her deserves to see what’s inside. She’d kill for those who matter to her and can be a little over-protective of them, hates small talk, forced pleasantries, and anything else she considers outright bullshit and a waste of time. She’s all for living life to the fullest, but is usually self-employed or at least not in a position where she has to deal with other people.

That’s only 3 character examples of 3 personality types, I’m sure many of you could come up with way more. Especially, for the types you’re most drawn to. Sitting down and seeing how many different heroines you could create from just one ‘type’ could also be a handy tool to help you nail down a new character’s personality. It’s kind of like playing the word game when you’re fighting writer’s block. And there are countless “types” to play around with.

  • Charismatic/Extroverted
  • Quietly Observant/Introverted
  • Princess/Girly-Girl
  • Wallflower/Shy/Bashful
  • Ambitious/Career Driven
  • Damaged/Broken
  • Goody-Goody
  • Tomboy
  • City Girl
  • Fashionista
  • Depressed/Sorrowful
  • Scorned/Vengeful
  • Secretive
  • Resigned
  • Whimsical/Daydreamer
  • Creative/Cheerful
  • Responsible/Burdened
  • Adventurous
  • Snarky/Sassy
  • Brat
  • Giving/Generous
  • Narcissist
  • Loyal & Self-Sacrificing
  • Freedom Seeking
  • Sensual/Sex-Driven
  • Violent/Aggressive

These are just the personality types I could think of off the top of my head, but some character types can be defined by their career or circumstances, rather than personality traits. Here are some examples I’ve used for my own female characters and a few others I can think of:

  • Party Planner
  • Confectioner/Baker
  • Homemaker
  • Photojournalist/NSA Agent
  • Stager
  • Personal Assistant
  • Supervising Coordinator & On-Site Liaison
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Stripper
  • Artist
  • Magical/Supernatural
  • Serial Killer’s Assistant
  • Researcher/Genealogist
  • Historian
  • Cop
  • Novelty & Holiday Decor Store Owner
  • Social Media Publicist CEO
  • Secret Government Operative (x3)
  • Graphic Novelist
  • Phone Sex Operator
  • University Student
  • College Drop-Out
  • Intern
  • Bar Owner/Metal Sculptor
  • MotoGP Parts Developer
  • Teacher/Professor
  • Single Mom
  • Broke & Struggling
  • Debutante
  • Mafia Princess
  • Huntress/Warrior
  • Biker
  • Secretary
  • Lawyer
  • Case worker
  • Waitress
  • Veterinarian
  • Foreign Princess
  • Activist
  • Homeless
  • Doctor
  • Caregiver
  • Thief/Con-Artist
  • Charity Worker
  • DIY Guru

So, what’s your preferred ‘type’ of heroine? Does your preference differ from what you read to what you write? What are some of your least favorite types, or types you get tired of seeing so readily in books? Comments, feedback, and questions welcome! ❤

#FridayFilmReview

I haven’t done a post about movies in awhile, and that’s probably because I’m so far behind on them, my reviews are way older than yesterday’s news. But, I have watched a few lately that were actually released within the last five years. 😀 While I try not have spoilers, some of these might have very small infractions to that, but nothing that would ruin the movie, promise. Curtains, please!

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Black Panther

Wakanda Forever! I know, I’m soooooo slow at catching up on movies, and this was one that I wanted to see soooooo freaking bad! And I finally did, like 3 times in a row! LOL I watched it by myself, then grabbed my youngest and was like “Watch this!” and then grabbed my oldest and was like “Watch this!” and it was just as awesome the third time as it was the first. Wow, I was blown away by the total change up of antagonists, and the back story to that was just…man, it’s so hard when you actually feel for the bad guy. I loved the way this movie’s plot played out and seeing actors I knew from some of my favorite shows like Sterling Brown, who had a recurring role on Supernatural for awhile and then seeing Angela Bassett play Queen Ramonda was totally badass, that role was so hers. This movie had everything you could ever want in ANY movie, but especially a superhero movie! “I never freeze.” LOL I could go on and on, but everyone’s probably already seen it a million times, so I better stop now. This is just making me want to go watch it again.

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Deadpool 2

What can I say about our second assault from the Merc With A Mouth? Well, a lot, actually which is why I’m already working on my new “Top 10 Things I Learned From Watching Deadpool” post – coming soon! 🙂  Just like Black Panther, I’ve already watched this movie a few times and will most likely watch it again before completing my top 10 post. So aside from Hello, it’s Deadpool, what’s not to love? I’m saving the rest for that list.

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Avengers Infinity War

I dove right into this movie all gung-ho just like I do any other Marvel movie and it was freaking awesome and every time another one of the hero groups appeared, it was like “Whooooo!” and  “Pump the hate brakes, Thanos!” – oh, wait, Deadpool said that. THEN I was left with this utterly jaw-dropped, mind-fracked…WTF just happened? Seriously, what in the hell did I just watch? Avengers, go to the corner! You’re ALL effin’ grounded and I don’t even want to talk to you until after I see the next installment and you better PRAY that it redeems the whole lot of you. That was just…no. Okay, but on a slightly more serious note: It’s a good, action-packed, all-star movie and of course, if you’ve been watching them up until now then you definitely don’t want to miss it or you will be completely lost.

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The Girl On The Train

O.M.G. This movie. It was a little slow for my normal taste, but totally worth it! No, I didn’t read the book first, so I had no idea how it was going to turn out. I was right there with the main character the whole time, unsure, unclear, worried, fearful, what happened that night? Who’s crazy, who’s lying, who did what? UGH! Just brilliant, totally genius. If you like a suspenseful ‘Who Dunnit’ with a MC you’re not even sure you want to be rooting for, yet you do anyway, because by the time you start questioning it, you’re already so invested – this is totally your movie. I don’t want to spoil it, so I will say no more – but it also has an all-star cast, peeps and I lurve me some Luke Evans, especially naked Luke Evans! 😛

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Red Sparrow

F@#^ Yes! Do it again. I want to see it again, because I didn’t know how this was all going to add up and now it’s too late! Oh, my movie madness friends! This is one of those brilliant, yet unfortunate films, that reveals all at the end – which I LOVE – but watching them a second time never has quite the same impact and I wish I could forget it and do it all over again, I liked it that much! This is kind of what would happen if Oceans 11 had a baby with Bourne Identity, yet completely all its own at the same time. Girl power all the way. Survivor power all the way. Get ready to never know what will happen next, what anything means or who to trust. Just sit back and enjoy the ride and savor it, revel in it, you’ll be so happy that you did – and talk about another all-star cast! My only singular complaint for this film was Jennifer Lawrence’s unconvincing Russian accent, but honestly, it’s not even enough to make me care like at all. I loved this movie, beginning to end.

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Passengers

I liked this, and I would recommend people watch it at least once, because it has a lot of good-time fun, humor, a wide range of emotions, suspense and action in it. I was a little disappointed by the end, I felt it was missing something, a bit anti-climatic for the kind of build-up it had. Almost like the screenwriter lost their momentum and just gave it a lame kind of meh…the end…but all in all it was a great way to spend a couple of hours. I’m a fan of both Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (support your locals!) and seeing Laurence Fishburne again was awesome for a minute. I would’ve destroyed the android bartender on day one, though, that was just too “The Shining” or something – thing gave me the creeps and I kept expecting it to say something like “Resistance is futile” or ask if anyone knew where Sarah Conner was – but that’s just me. Five stars to Michael Sheen just for pulling that skin-crawling “I am not even remotely human” vibe off, wow. I also acquired the valuable foresight to never go swimming in a ship that has the ability to go to zero gravity at any given time. Now where was that stroke of brilliance at the end, writers? Okay, I’m done. Watch it!

With all the problems I’ve had with my hands this year, I’ve had way too much time to watch TV and I did! Here are some shows that I enjoy, anyone else watch them too?

2018 TV series/movie binges on Netflix/Hulu:

The Good Place (starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson)- it’s forking hilarious, benches!
Like Father (Movie, starring Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer)
Skin Wars (Reality challenge show about body painting hosted by Mystique Rebecca Romaijn & starring RuPaul Charles)
Once Upon a Time final season
Gotham Season 3
Supernatural season 13
The Originals final season
The Vampire Diaries final season
Arrow season 6
The Flash seasons 1-3
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1
Legends of Tomorrow seasons 1 & 2

Hulu
Lucifer season 3