Although female booklovers can’t wait to see if the hero will be a handsome cowboy with a soft spot for orphans, a rakish marquis who needs an heir, or a sophisticated jewel thief who donates his loot to charity, it’s the heroines who stick with readers. Here are 5 characteristics for heroines readers will remember long after they pass the book to their mothers-in-law.
1) Heroines must be flawed. No one liked the girl in high school with perfect hair/clothes/teeth/car/parents…fill in the blank. Unless she happened to be us, that girl was annoying. Authors must make sure heroines have plenty of nice attributes, but there should also be things for her to work on. My heroine in What Happened on Beale Street hates people in her “personal space.” Beth Kirby often balks—or runs in the opposite direction—if people get too close.
2) Heroines recognize their flaws and strive to overcome them. Just like we don’t like perfection, we also don’t like women who keep making the same mistakes over and over. Consider the famous anti-heroine Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. Although Margaret Mitchel gave us plenty of reasons to hate her, no one can deny that Scarlett made serious strides in self-improvement by the end of the book.
3) Heroines have integrity. Let’s face it. No one likes a woman who takes candy from a baby, rips off a humanitarian aid society, or advances her cause at the expense of others. If the heroine must kill somebody, he had better be a bad-guy. I remember a fictional cat burglar who refilled a dog’s water bowl while stealing a famous painting. At the end of the book, the burglar returned the painting to the rightful pre-World War II owner. Now that’s integrity!
4) Heroines never give up. Whether she’s stranded on Spider Island, trapped on a sinking ocean liner, or framed for a crime she didn’t commit, heroines don’t sit in corners, feeling sorry for themselves. No one will forget the character played by Kate Winslet in The Titanic. How could anyone hang onto a railing that long?
5) Heroines recognize the important things in life. No matter how career-driven a woman is, she must come to terms with what really matters like faith, family, and of course, love. We’re here on earth only for a short time, so a heroine must learn to see the big picture. Who can forget Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? She suffered ordeal after ordeal before realizing everything she wanted was back home in Kansas.
Mary Ellis has written twelve novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances. Her latest, What Happened on Beale Street, is second of a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, from Harvest House Publishers. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. She can be found at: www.maryellis.net
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