There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Tossing Heads With Heroines May 18, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:30 am
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K. L. Schwengel

No, I didn’t mean Talking Heads, although I do enjoy their music. If you’re a Labyrinth fan you’ll know where this is coming from. One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie (besides any with David Bowie as THE number one best Goblin king ev-ahr) is when Sarah finds herself surrounded by the odd, head-tossing Fireys.

“You’re only allowed to throw your own head!” Love it. Why? Because it’s just one of the times our heroine gets to show what she’s really made of.
Much is made about heroes in fantasy, and the qualities they should possess. Often, however, the heroine is subject to playing second string, or even sitting on the bench. Even when she’s supposed to be driving the story. Nothing will make me dump a book quicker than a simpering, milquetoast heroine. I want to see some head tossing, dang it. Occasional tears are fine. Weakness and flaws, to be expected. But constant sobbing, wringing of hands, and screaming . . . not so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need the Amazonian, full-on kickassery battle chick. I’m okay with heroines displaying their feminine side. But they need to temper that with other qualities or I just won’t care if they ever succeed. Heck, I may even start hoping the bad guy does them in.
So, what do I want to see in a heroine?

  • Strength: Not physical. I want that internal strength that pushes our gal forward even when she’s terrified. She can be shaking in her boots, ready to toss her cookies, but she’s got to have the hutzpah to suck it up and keep going, beyond her limitations.
  • Initiative: Give me someone who acts as opposed to always reacting, or worse, sitting on her hands waiting to be saved, helped, or told what to do. This trait is likely going to get her into worse situations more often than not, but she’s trying. She’s making the effort.
  • Faith: Hope, optimism, call it what you will. She needs to believe there’s a way out of the situation, that at the end of the day, it’s going to work out. Yes, she can have moments of self-doubt, moments of utter despair – key word, moments. We all have them. Wallowing in them pins us down, just as it will to our heroine. She needs to believe in herself, in a greater power, in the love of someone. Something has to fee her Strength.
  • A Sense of Humor: No, not slap you knee funny, life of the party, cracking jokes and taking nothing seriously type of humor. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m somewhat a fan of gallows humor. You know, that scene where our heroine and her bestie are outnumbered 10-1 and certain death is staring them in the face, and she looks over and quips, “At least I’m wearing clean undies.” (Because whose mother never gave them that warning as they headed out the door?)
  • Love: Hey, I’m not the big mushy type, but our heroine needs to be able to love, openly and without reservation. Heroes aren’t always perfect. At least, they shouldn’t be. Our heroine needs to be able to set aside her preconceived notions of Prince Charming and embrace Prince I’m Only Human.

I’m sure I’ve left something out. So tell me, what is it you like to see in your heroines?