What makes a good heroine?

Arthur Rackham 1909 Undine (11 of 15)

Not a rhetorical question. I really do want to know what makes a good heroine.

In theory, it’s simple. She has to have agency, not be a doormat.

In practice, my heroines tend to annoy the bejabbers out of me.

I love my heroes. Geoff, for instance, leaps into action the moment a crisis appears.

But my heroines? They whine. They pout. I haven’t had one stamp her foot yet thankfully. (I won’t be held responsible for my actions if one tries that.) They Are Annoying.

For the moment, the only thing I can think of is to go through the story, line by line. Every time my heroine sighs, or thinks “there’s nothing I can do” I am replacing her feeble words with strong ones. If she has to be stymied, she can at least be doing something while she’s stuck. And that does not include sighing.

Lia sighed. “I don’t know how to get another dress in that time. Or even if I had more time, I don’t have the money. I’ll have to find a place to stay where I can try to clean this dress somehow…”

Lia stood up. “I have to find a place to stay before I can clean this dress. Do you know where I can find Mrs. Whitlow’s laundry?”

Does that work better? I think perhaps it does.

Have you ever read a story where you just wanted to shake the heroine? Or a story where you loved the heroine? Maybe revising this story would be easier if I looked at how other writers handled their characters. But maybe that would send me down a rabbit hole of distraction. I’ll try finishing this revision first and then go read some good books while the draft “sets” a while.

If you have any books with great heroines to recommend, please let me know!

 

Quote: Writing & Life

Fritz Zuber-Bühler - Distant Thoughts, Oil on Canvas

Another unhappy truth that you might as well accept from the start is that life will never leave you alone. The demands of daily living will cut into your time, insist on your attention, shake you up badly, or sometimes even so delight you that you can’t concentrate on writing. Or so you think. But you’ll learn to use what comes, good and bad, and it will become part of whatever you are, and find its way under many disguises into your work. Some writers don’t feel they have really lived an experience, however joyful or sorrowful, until they have written about it. There are even times when it becomes our escape into an imaginary country where we can ease our minds from all that is troubling. When we come back to the “real” world, we feel renewed and better able to cope with whatever problem beset us.

-Phyllis Whitney, Guide to Fiction Writing

On the Fear of Finishing Things

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. -Erica Jong

I am so close to finishing the second draft of Geoff and Lia’s story. So, of course, I’m dragging my feet.

Why? Because that means it’s the end of the fun part of writing for me. No more making things up and writing them down. Now I have to send it out into the cold, uncaring world. Other people are going to look at. They might point. They might snicker. They might wonder what kind of sick, demented imagination could think up such a story.

They might even want to buy it.

Oh my.
That is scary.

So I am going to go public. Announce to all the world, or at least as much of the world might be reading these words, that I am going to give myself a deadline. I will finish the second draft by December 20, 2016, 8:06 pm PST.

Now the pressure’s on.

IMG_1210

I am being watched.

I used to be afraid to finish a project. Because if I finished one, I’d have to submit it. And if I submitted it, I would have to suffer through the first of what would surely be fifty rejections, because that’s what EVERY writer has to go through, right? And I wasn’t ready for that.

So I didn’t write more than twenty pages of a book. Ever. Because it kept me safe from those rejections.

And what I didn’t realize was that I was rejecting myself. I was making the decision FOR all of those editors.

I finally got the courage to write a book. And I sent it in. And HOLY COW the publisher wanted to buy it.

Maisey Yates

Breaking up with bad writing habits

Dear Filter Words,

I feel that we have been together a long time. It seems as if  you have always been by my side, whenever I put pen to page, eager to insert yourself. By adding you it was as though there was a veil created between my writing and the reader, and I finally realized that in many ways you were responsible.

After much soul searching, I have decided that you and I will have to part. While I have considered various alternatives, the truth is that we do not suit each other. I reckon that, what with one thing and another, you are getting in the way.

sincerely,

Me

Dear Filter Words, Dear Filter Words,
I feel that we have been together a long time. We have been together a long time.
It seems as if  you have always been by my side, whenever I put pen to page, eager to insert yourself in my writing.  You have always been eager to insert yourself in my writing.
By adding you, it is as though there were a veil created between my writing and the reader , and I finally realized that in many ways you were responsible. Adding filter words created a veil between my writing and the reader.
 After much soul searching, I have decided that you and I will have to part. You and I will have to part.
 While I have considered various alternatives, the truth is that we do not suit each other. We do not suit each other.
I reckon that, what with one thing and another, you are getting in the way.  You are in my way.

Dear Filter Words,

We have been together a long time. You have always been eager to insert yourself in my writing. Adding filter words created a veil between my writing and the reader.

You and I will have to part. We do not suit each other. You are in my way.

sincerely,

Me

Reasons I stop reading a book

This book should not be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. – Dorothy Parker

Lately, I have hit a series of DNF books. I used to always finish a book if I started reading it, even if I had to skim the boring bits to find out whodunit. Maybe I’m getting less patient as I get older. Life is too short to read bad books.

Note: all these books were fairly popular, so clearly other people liked them a lot. They just didn’t work for me.

Book #1: Category Romance about an arrogant millionaire and a beautiful innocent young woman. (Not usually my cuppa, but it was free and the author is popular. I thought I could study what made her so successful.)

Where I stopped: Page five.

Why I stopped: I loathed both characters from the start. He was domineering to the point of being abusive right in the first paragraph. When he belittled her and ordered her about, she found herself becoming turned on despite (or because?) he was so unpleasant. Get thee both to a therapist.

What might have fixed it: Some redeeming quality, even one little scrap of kindness or courtesy, shown within the first few pages.

Book #2: Self published “lightly paranormal” romantic comedy.

Where I stopped:The Kindle reader was at 15%.

Why I stopped: The heroine herself had no goals. I mean it. No goals at all. This woman didn’t want so much as a drink of water. Random wonderful-but-strange events happened to her, but she didn’t care enough to try to find out if they were connected. She apparently wanted nothing out of life. Why should I care about her life if she didn’t?

What might have fixed it: If the heroine had wanted something, anything. Chuck Wendig wrote a good explanation of why this is important.

Book #3: Traditionally published Inspirational novel

Where I stopped: The Kindle reader was at 13%.

Why I stopped: The writing. It was very awkward.

For example, one sentence described a character prancing across the room while her hair bounced and her beige suit complemented her white teeth.

My problems with this sentence:
1) No grown woman should prance unless she’s doing a My Little Pony impersonation.
2) Even if the woman were doing a My Little Pony impersonation, no sentence should be asked to include the fact that she is prancing while her hair is bouncing and her suit is complementing. It’s way too much action for one poor sentence to bear.
3) When I read that a suit complements something, I assume the writer means the colors were complementary; they didn’t clash. But what clashes with white? Or with beige for that matter? It doesn’t make sense. And who coordinates their clothing with their teeth in the first place? I’ve got to back away from this sentence. It’s driving me crazy.

What might have fixed it: An editor who stood firm when the writer wanted to stet sentences like the above. The original idea was intriguing enough to keep me reading for a few chapters.

I really do want to finish a book when I start reading, but it was useful analyzing why these books didn’t work for me. I’ve written awkward sentences, passive heroines, unlikeable heroes, but it’s easier to see these errors in someone else’s works. Hopefully, this will help me avoid them in the future.

Here’s another writer’s list of reasons why  she loathed certain books.

Have you had a DNF book lately? Why did you stop reading?