Why I do not write perfect Heroines
Updated: Apr 13
For me the most important thing is that I *like* my heroine. Not just mine, I might add, but any heroine, in order to enjoy their story. Growing up, I always liked stories where the heroine was the outsider. She was not the pretty or popular girl at the ball. I always preferred Jo March to Meg or Amy in Little Women and I think most girls do. Because, somehow I think most of us feel partisan to the character who goes to the party in the singed dress. Your heart goes out to that girl, who is resigned to the fact she will not get to stand up for a single dance. You want her overcome the odds and find her happy ending. (And no, I am still not resigned to the fact she did not marry Theodore Laurence!)
The first romance books I read were in the 1980s. The heroines either seemed to be tempestuous, wilful beauties with flashing eyes or persecuted and saintly victims who fainted a lot and had to be rescued. It was so hard to find a heroine you could fully get on board and root for! I remember, whenever I did find that rare gem of a heroine, how I would get that jolt of delight and sit up and take notice. That happy rush of ‘yes, now this gal I like!’ And what I started to realize was that these heroines that hit the spot for me, had one thing in common. They were not considered perfect. It could be their looks were not appreciated or fashionable, or perhaps they were clumsy or tactless or had an off-beat sense of humour. They could have an unusual hobby or an interest that their mama did not like them to mention. Or perhaps they had unconventional views or upbringings, were from foreign parts or did not have the right family connections.
More often than not though, I ended up reading books about those wilful beauties who made choices that made me cringe and bored me with their foot-stamping and dubious life decisions. Or those doormat heroines who spent their time angsting over every jealous ex’s comment or swallowing the lies of the clearly villainous cousin while misinterpreting every little thing the hero said to them!
What I found myself doing in these stories was fixating on the side characters who came in and out of the pages, completely overshadowed by the dazzling heroine. The plain best friend whose nose was too long so she didn’t have the heroine’s perfect china doll profile. Or the cousin whose father came from trade so she kept coming out with ‘shop talk’ and embarrassing her aunt. I would always wonder what their story would be like if they ever managed to get out from that perfect heroine’s shadow. Sometimes, if I was lucky, they would be given a secondary plotline that I would often find I preferred to the main story arc. But more often than not, those girls were left without their happy ending.
I like to think that in my stories, I am telling the story of those secondary female characters who weren’t born with hair that cascades down their shoulders in glossy ringlets or eyes that shine like jewels. There are plenty of books about those girls. Instead I am picking up my pen to write about the imperfect girls. Because there IS a hero out there for them in Romancelandia. And I vow I will find him and deliver him to them, even if I have to hogtie him to get him there!