August Back-To-School: Romance 101
Ideal Heroine Week
This week we’re talking about the Ideal Heroine–an often overlooked person. When we talk about the Ideal Heroine, we don’t often consider what we’re actually asking–who am I and what am I doing here? In her blog article, “Writing the Ideal Heroine,” on The Writer’s Edge, Christine Stewart points out “It’s harder to write a sympathetic female lead character than a male one.” She goes on to explain that much of this has to do with the reader’s expectations of the female main character. Following that is a list of qualities that are commonly held as necessary in an Ideal Heroine. The lengthy list is a study in contradictions. She must be an outsider and solitary, but also engaged enough with a community to be loyal and outspoken for the rights of others. She must be vulnerable and yet determined and strong enough to stand by her convinctions…and so on.
The problem with the Ideal Heroine and knowing her when you see her is the same problem with female identity in modern American culture (at the very least Western culture)–there are too many people to be and too many roles to play.
So how do we find, identify, and claim kinship to an Ideal Heroine?
Don’t try to be all heroines at all times.
In reading romance novels, we usually come across certain types of heroines we identify with the most (and those we loath from cover to cover no matter how much character development she goes through). So here are some basic types I’ve come up with:
1. The Sexpot Mommy: She’s caring, bakes cookies, and worries after everyone around her, but she’ll also tan your hide and send you to time-out. She’s usually described as some sort of sensual Earth Mother with metaphorical birthing hips.
2. The Savior: She’s the kind and forgiving type. She “soothes” things (souls, beasts, psychic pain). She selflessly sacrifices herself in the name of others and, most importantly, for the sake of love.
3. The Spirited Lass: She is sassy and feisty and ready to tell you and everyone else like it is. She’ll fight with the hero, often just for the sake of fighting with him. She’s sometimes tomboy-ish and sometimes ultra-feminine, but she’ll find a way to pack a mean punch, even if it’s just with words.
4. The Little Miss Sunshine: She’s the girl who smiles and is extroverted. She usually works in a coffee shop/diner/flower shop/dress shop and/or plays the role of a business assistant. She’s generally happy and tries to understand those around her.
5. The Plain Jane: She’s the girl no one has really noticed because she is so painfully normal, but she’s no pushover. She is well acquainted with her mind, her sense of humor, and her abilities. Though she might put a mental cap on her supposed relationship limitations, she usually values herself. She has no problem being smarter than you.
6. The Vulnerable Woman: She’s been hurt before whether it be a boyfriend, husband, father, or Life. She is often physically or mentally different. It’s possible she’s been abused and/or on the lam from some terrible thing (abuser, traffickers, crazed vampire, etc.)
7. The Good Girl: She’s never been to a club in her life, pays all of her bills on time, and doesn’t have so much as a speeding ticket. Her goal in life is to check all of the boxes and avoid things that might cause trouble–like bad boys.
8. The Anti-Heroine: She curses. She avoids commitments. She’s not very giving at all and probably cringes at the idea of children.
Though there are variations on the theme, I tried to match up to author Berinn Rae’s categories of Fiction Hunk because, after all, every hero needs his heroine. If you want to know more about the Ideal Hero, click on over.
So who are you? Which Ideal Heroine brings you to keep turning that page?
Categories: Love Letters: Editorials