Monday, December 20, 2010

Slipping into a heroine's heels

I'm sure there are heroines out there who prefer combat or cowboy boots over three inch heels, and there are readers out there who opt for Keds and bunny slippers, but when a heroine is well written, readers will find themselves slipping into her shoes within the first few pages of a book. It doesn't matter if she's a vampire slayer, a high society princess, or the pre-school teacher next door, a well-written heroine is universally sympathetic. She may be a unique individual, her shoe styles may differ, but they come in one-size-fits-all. And they all have an Achilles heel.

Writers know that sympathetic heroines need to be proactive, vulnerable but strong, guarded but giving. The list goes on. But what specifically are we connecting with? What weaknesses or strengths? What insecurities? What flaws? Do different readers connect with the same heroine for different reasons? Is it her struggle with ten pounds for one reader, and the loss of her parents for another? Or is it simply the fact that she has a soft spot? As a reader, do you connect because of a shared experience, or a shared personality trait? Is it a matter of 'Oh, I did that too' or 'Yeh, I get her' or both?

I'm asking a lot of questions here, many that I've seen asked of heroes, but it's the heroine we become. We fall in love with the hero through her eyes and heart. So what do you think? What's the common thread across genres that has you connecting with a heroine? Is it a moment, a trait, or a growth arc? What makes her shoes fit?


  1. What a good question.

    I think (for me) I relate to her weaknesses, but I aspire to her strengths.

  2. Oooh, that's a tough question. I think we all can sympathesize with someone who tries but is getting a bad shake in life. Or if we don't like her for whatever reason then she has to have a good reason for doing what we don't like and then eventually change.

  3. So true, as summarised by Maria above!
    I don't know but I'm always in the heroine's shoes, leading her life and riding the roller-coaster of emotions with her. But what gets me there? Maybe the very normalcy of her character at the beginning.

  4. My daughter just finished reading a Sidney Sheldon (If Tomorrow Comes)and I asked her this question, she answered..if she's in the heroine's POV then she's with her but if she's reading the hero's POV, then she sympathizes and is with him! I hope it makes sense(it didn't really to me!)

  5. Hi Maria! I love how you put it. If we relate to her weaknesses but see her succeed, then we get a sense of hope for ourself :)

    Hey Jennifer! I hear you. Redeeming qualities are important, as is a 'positive' growth arc.

    Hi Nas! I love that you asked your daughter the question :).

  6. Ooo Maria answered that really well! I completely agree - she has to be realistic so we see ourselves in her, and yet also have a quality we aspire to find within our hearts one day.

  7. Nas- If Tomorrow Comes is one of my favorite books of all time! LOVE that book so much.

    Rula- I think as long as there is humanity there, something that makes her vulnerable, and unique, it doesn't really matter what it is. Just as long as we can look at her and feel like we are cut from the same cloth. Like I can look at her and feel that she has insecurities and flaws, like me. Great post!

  8. Ooh I love this. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy. It's how I feel about my hero/heroine. I've also left a comment on your previous post. Merry Christmas!

  9. Jayne - Yes! Part of us feels like we're already her, and the other aspires to be like her. Thanks for stopping in :)

    Chrisitine - Humanity is so important (even in a hero). Relating to her insecurities and flaws is a big one with me. I'm thinking she has to have more than one going on (just a few) to make sure readers relate. I guess that's where making a character multi-dimensional comes in. You're so right!

  10. Hey L'Aussie! Thanks for popping in, and I read your other comment :) Thanks! Merry Christmas to you too!

  11. Hi, Rula

    Nice blog!

    Have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2011.

    Greedings from Greece.