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.
If the heroine doesn’t resonate with readers, the overall quality of the book will be compromised for the reader. A great heroine sets the tone for a fantastic reading experience.
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/
Sally Shupe says
Love this post. I like how you went through and addressed each of the issues. Would love to be entered in the drawing for the book. Thank you!
Thanks so much, Sally. I really love creating characters and I think a strong, likeable heroine is so important. I’m entering you in the drawing for the book. Blessings. Belle
Patricia Ullmann says
I love reading books by Belle Calhoune!
Aww, thanks Patricia. You’re so sweet. And you’re one of my best readers. I love how you get the word out about my books. Blessings. Belle
D K Stevens says
1 – too stupid to live. that’s a great point! I think books with the stereotype of dumb, blonde or women sometimes all 3 can be tstl & do not make good books.. well, unless they are just someones friend in the book that causes the heroine way too many problems. then I think she could be memorable… I would enjoy reading your book :)
Hi DK Stevens. Thanks for stopping in. Yes, I agree that stereotypes are really harmful in books. It doesn’t provide a memorable read. And TSTL heroines are very annoying to readers. And I also love a mischief making character who acts up. The fun part for me is redeeming that side character and giving her a book where she’s the star attraction. Blessings. Belle
It sounds like a wonderful story!
Hi Linda. Yes, Patricia Johns is a great writer and this book is terrific. Thanks so much for stopping by. Blessings. Belle
Trixi O. says
This was a great post Belle! Just like with the hero in a book, they have to be believable. An author who can “flesh out” a character (hero or heroine) that’s well liked; flawed just like us, has same struggles, trails, temptations, etc; is well balanced…that’s the kind of book I want to read! In other words, I want to relate to that person…sometimes they may be going through something I am right now & how they handle it can encourage me to do the same. Putting God in the midst of it, well that’s perfection right there! :-) Life is too difficult to go through it without His help and guidance. Every Love Inspired book that I have read has great heroes and heroines, and every author of those books have touched my life with their writing in some form or fashion. Thanks for always writing the story the Lord puts on your heart!
I’d like to put my name in the pot to win Patricia Johns “The Rancher’s City Girl”. Thank you for the chance to own a great book! Blessings Belle!
Hi Trixi. Thanks so much for stopping by. I love everything you said. And you are so right. Life is way too difficult to go through it without God by our side. Thanks for your kind words about the Love Inspired line. I know all the authors work hard to get it right and to entertain and uplift readers. Blessings. Belle
I can imagine how difficult it is to bring a NEW character while at the same time making them believable and one to be remembered. When I read over your list of what it takes it made me think of specific books and why I like them. Good post
Hi Jen. Thanks for stopping by. Personally, I love creating new characters, but you’re absolutely right. It is difficult. But oh so important. Without strong characters there wouldn’t be a firm foundation for a story. Blessings. Belle
Britney Adams says
I love memorable characters and can’t wait to read more of yours, Belle! Thank you for sharing this great post and giveaway!
Hi Britney. Great to see you here. Thanks for the compliment. I have lots of exciting projects coming up. And I’m happy to share my friend’s wonderful book. It’s a keeper. Blessings. Belle
Becky Dempsey says
I love your points of having a heroine to remember. I especially loved #1 TSTL! I’d love to win the book :)
Hi Becky. Thanks for stopping by. I have to admit, #1 is the one that always runs through my head. I know those TSTL heroines are annoying. LOL. There’s nothing worse than reading a book and wanting to stop reading because of something foolish happening. I’ll put you in the drawing. Blessings. Belle