As a reader, I dislike the Blank Betty. If I want to imagine myself in a story, I can certainly do so without a pre-defined ‘imagination vehicle’ to slide myself inside. Hell, I regularly imagine myself in Anna Karenina (don’t ask), and Anna is anything but a Blank Betty. Half the fun of imaging is taken away if it is too easy!
As a writer, I write what I’d want to read. So, I avoid the Blank Betty at all costs. Instead, I focus on having a heroine I’d want to get to know – a heroine that is partner-in-crime material. We can call her Best Friend Fiona (the names are cheesy, but hang with me here). You don’t want to be Fiona, you want to be with her; the distinction makes all the difference in a story.
So what makes a good friend? Well, most importantly they must be interesting. She is the type of person you could have a four-hour lunch with and still get surprised when the restaurant finally kicks you out. A woman that is funny, intelligent and engaging is who I’d want to spend my afternoon with, and my heroines are no exception. After all, a book requires investing hours of your life: why spend that with someone bland?
A best friend should also grow. While marathon lunches can be fun at first, they quickly get old if your partner never has any new stories to tell. You don’t want the pain of a friend who stays stuck in the good ol’ years and never grows up. Betty will want to go to the same restaurant every week, and you’ll quickly get sick of the Cobb salad. I’d rather hang out with Fiona, who is willing to try new places and take some risks.
However, a good friend is also flawed. Does anyone want the perfect Stepford-Wife friend who has never done anything wrong and gives you crushing looks of pity any time you mess up? Looks of pity because she can’t relate at all to your failures and is baffled by your sad emotions? Nope, didn’t think so. I make mistakes all the time, and I certainly want a friend who can say, “I’ve also called my ex at 4 am to ask him back. But don’t worry! The shame doesn’t last forever.” My heroines are much the same, having flaws that hurt them at times, but ultimately makes them into better people and companions.
All of these traits are things I look for in friends, and what I try to instill into my characters. My hope it to make heroines that are likeable, dynamic, flawed, and compelling – just like the real women who I know. Books heroines can touch your heart and enhance your life just like real friends, so why not seek out the best ones you can find?
What are your thoughts? What type of traits do you look for in a heroine? Do you approach writing or reading heroines in a different fashion?
This article was originally posted on Dirty Discourse