Writing believable, likeable heroines in the Inspirational genre is no easy feat. And anyone who says otherwise, might want to reconsider that position. I have to laugh when I receive messages from readers asking why they can’t find a particular book in my series in the Amazon listings. That’s because I haven’t written it yet. Writing books filled with complex, deep, spiritual characters takes time and effort and many hours of brainstorming. And prayer. And at times, hand wringing. A large part of that is getting the characters right.
Here are some starter points:
1.) The heroine cannot be TSTL. In other words, too stupid to live. She has to make decisions or choices that are not incredibly reckless, random or inconsistent with her character. That being said, not every reader has to completely give all of the heroine’s choices the thumbs up, but it does mean that the reader has to be able to understand her choices and her decisions. In “The Way Home” my first book in the Seven Brides, Seven Brothers series, the heroine, Sarah Dalton, is stood up at her wedding by her fiancé, Blue Donahue. Of course he had his reasons for being late for the wedding, but in Sarah’s eyes he humiliated and disgraced her in front of all her family and friends. Not to mention he kept secrets from her prior to their wedding. Sarah’s decisions were based on the holes she saw in their relationship. How could she exchange vows under those circumstances? Valid, thoughtful, poignant reasons. Not a flight of fancy or the actions of a fickle heroine. Now, if Sarah had married another man on the day of her cancelled wedding to Blue, she may have qualified for TSTL status.
2.) Relatable. In writing heroines I try to create a character who readers can relate to. And it doesn’t always mean that she has to be similar to the reader. Even if she’s a wealthy princess living in a mansion she still has to evoke feelings in the reader that make the reader want to keep turning the page because they are invested in her journey. As a writer I want the reader to empathize with the heroine and her struggles. What is her Kryptonite? What is keeping her from being happy? What’s her struggle? Most people can relate to a character searching for love or healing from a broken heart. One of my favorite heroines I’ve written is Ava Trask from my book, “Forever Her Hero.” Ava, a widow raising twins, is trying to work through her grief, process her husband’s tragic death and deal with her romantic feelings toward her childhood best friend, Sawyer Trask. Grief is a universal emotion, one that most readers can relate to. Loss. Pain. Confusion. As a heroine, Ava is struggling with so many emotions and working hard to find her way back to normalcy.
3.) Polly Perfects need not apply. Personally, when I read a book and the heroine is one hundred percent goodness and light, I tend to get very bored. Now that doesn’t mean the heroine can’t be a good person, love her family and have a close relationship with God. It just means she should not be portrayed as having hung the moon or rescuing the world from hunger and poverty. Just like with my heroes, I like my heroines to have flaws. They don’t have to be major flaws, but if the heroine’s life is perfect it lessens the impact of the hero on her life. Bringing the hero and the heroine together romantically should be a ta-dah moment. In my debut book for the Love Inspired line, “Reunited with the Sheriff,” the heroine, Cassidy Blake, was far from perfect. She was returning to her hometown of West Falls, Texas, after causing the accident that paralyzed her best friend, Holly Lynch. Yikes! Cassidy wasn’t a bad person, but fear and guilt caused her to flee town and leave all the people she loved behind. Her imperfections were the foundation on which the book was built. Before I wrote the very first word of this novel I knew that I wanted to create a heroine who had done something she couldn’t simple erase with the snap of her fingers.
4.) Memorable. Heroines should linger in a reader’s mind after the final page has been read. Think about all the great heroines in literature. Scarlett O’Hara. Hermione Granger. Celie Johnson. There was something about the character that resonated with readers. Strength. Purpose. Conviction. Patricia Johns, Love Inspired author, acknowledges the power that rests in having a heroine who stands out from the crowd. In speaking about her January release, “The Rancher’s City Girl,” she says of her heroine, “Eloise LeBlanc makes a great heroine because she has her own mind. She disagrees with the hero, she has a completely different relationship with his father than he does and she wants different things out of life. She is most stubbornly herself, and because of that, I liked her. If the author likes her, it’s a good bet that the readers will, too.” Patricia raises a great point about authors liking the heroines they create. It is all in the author’s hands as to whether or not the heroine is memorable. If an author can’t stand behind the character they have created, that’s a sure sign of a problem.
In celebration of wonderful heroines, I’m giving away one copy of my friend Patricia John’s latest book, “The Rancher’s City Girl.” It is a January 2015 Love Inspired book and it’s terrific. To be entered in the random drawing, all you have to do is comment on this post. And you can check out Author Patricia Johns at her website: http://patriciajohnsromance.com/