There are several types of heroines. I was entering a contest the other day – Hearts of Denver and they have a prize for the Unsinkable Heroine. Everyone has heard the story of the Unsinkable Molly Brown. If you haven’t heard the story, you may have seen the movie with Debbie Reynolds where she plays the lead character – a woman whose husband strikes it rich and she is traveling on the Titanic when it sinks. Her pluck and heroism is the stuff of legends today. Even in the more recent movie – Titanic, Kathy Bates played the woman who could not be brought down, no matter what the snobs of high society did to her, she always remained optimistic and stayed true to herself. So I ask - what type of heroine are you?
Many years ago when I first started writing I read a book called The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines – Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders. When Tami Cowden signed my book she wrote “Write your characters with love!” The book is well-worn now with post-its marking different sections for me, but one thing still remains clear to me today – many of our heroines do not fall into just one category, but are a combination of different types. I remember when I first read it I thought – wow, I am the Boss. I tend to be overly confident, a bit blunt at times, definitely a workaholic, and competitive. Although I have to admit I don’t like to think of myself as competitive, I do like to win but not at the risk of hurting others. This is where I take on characteristics of other types.
My heroines are take-charge women. They do not like to rely on men and refuse to ask for help if they think they can solve the problem on their own. For several of them, this attitude is a result of their past – a hurt done to them or a family member which colored the way they see men and others in society. For example, Nina had naïve views of love until the man she fell in love with was a married man. Once she learned the truth she did not trust men and vowed to make a way for herself in life without leaning on a man. She became an excellent shot, learned to defend herself by taking fencing lessons, and could ride a horse better than most men in the county. Most men shy away from a woman like her because she is too much of a challenge. No man wants to marry a woman who is strong-willed and independent. Of course, this characteristic of Nina’s becomes her conflict. When she does fall in love with the hero, how can she let down her guard and let him see her vulnerability? In her eyes, this is a weakness. This also gives the heroine the arch she must travel in order to find her “happily ever after”.
I was watching Gone With the Wind the other day and thought about Scarlet. She spends her youth playing on men’s affections and pretending to be a weak, helpless female to garner their attention. In reality, she is anything but a helpless female. She is calculating and cool. Much like her mother, she is the power behind the man. She could not marry a man she manipulates and love him because she does not respect that man. Through the book and the movie we see her grow as a person. She learns to not hide her strength from the men in her life. The one person she still manipulates with her feigned weakness is Ashley. Because of his Southern gentleman mentality he cannot resist coming to the aid of a female in distress. The one man who sees through her actions is Rhett. When he finally proposes to her he does so with a great line – “why don’t you try marrying for fun?” She laughs at him, “fiddle dee dee, fun for you, you mean.” But Rhett counters by telling her she married a boy and old man. Perhaps she should try marrying a man closer to her age. In Rhett she finally meets her match. They do love each other even though she still thinks she loves Ashley. That school-girl crush lingers. In every other area of her life she can handle anything. The falling of the South, the devastation of Tara. The death of her mother and father. Even the death of her daughter. She gets back up and continues to fight.
I may write historicals, but my heroines have more modern sensibilities. They are ahead of their time. They do not shy away from speaking their minds. They are not afraid to fight for what they want. They most definitely will fight for the people they love. When I write I think about women I admire. Women who were not afraid to go against the expected and fight for what they want. They were also not afraid to be soft and gentle when they wanted. I may be a Boss in many areas of my life, but I am also a Nurturer, the Seductress, and the Free Spirit. I can be the Librarian and the Crusader as well. The only person who has ever seen every aspect of me would be the hero in my life – my husband. After all, the only person the heroine is every comfortable showing all sides to would be the hero.
If you want to read a good book on the hero and heroine, look up this book by Cowden, LaFever, and Viders. You won’t be disappointed and then let me know – which heroine are you?