Archive for 'Heroines'

Lying around
by Annette McCleave on February 24th, 2009

I once planned to write a book about a woman who could tell when people were lying. Of course, that, in and of itself, is not a paranormal story; if you happen to catch the new Fox series, LIE TO ME, you’ll know that a few unique human beings already possess that skill.

The heroine of my story lived in a world where everyone was born with obvious gifts. These gifts fell into certain categories: natural, technological, artistic, etc. Within the categories, the depth of the gift varied–some had the ability to shift fully into animals, others simply had a supremely enhanced sense of smell. My heroine’s gift was called Lie Divining and only one percent of the population was blessed with that gift.

But my heroine also possessed a second gift, called Truth Seeing, which was extremely rare and very highly prized. With a handshake and a couple of quick questions, a truth seer could ‘feel’ a person’s inner thoughts and motivations. It’s the kind of gift some leaders might kill to control, and that was the crux of my story.

I wrote fifty pages or so, then put the manuscript aside. I don’t remember why. My research notes and that rough start are still lying around somewhere, so I could have another go at it some day, but I doubt it. Some stories come alive for me, and some don’t. This one didn’t.


Fox clearly found the lie divining concept fascinating enough to create a series based on it, and I must say I’m really enjoying LIE TO ME so far. Anyone else liking it?

p.s. If you visit the Fox site, they have some neat info about the scientist who inspired the show and the curious places where lying shows up in real life.

A season for writing. Or not.
by Jessa Slade on December 22nd, 2008

Congratulations to Zita Hildebrandt, winner of the unicorn gift from Sharon Ashwood.

The Silk And Shadows holiday gifting comment contest will continue after the actual holidays. Meanwhile, our topic this week is “Our characters at Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/etc.”

Working on: Stuck on Chapter 10, having been derailed by said holidays
Mood: Restless

I haven’t been able to settle to my writing for the last couple weeks.  Distracted by the holidays, sweetie’s birthday, blowing snow, boarding a second dog, arranging for an author photo from some suitable body double, [insert additional excuses as needed], I can’t seem to get many coherent words on the page.

So why start now?

As I tried to imagine a holiday themed story for my characters, I choked.  My heroine fights demons.  She doesn’t have time to reapply her lip balm much less wrap presents or bake cookies.  So unless an incorporeal demonic emanation possesses the Christmas ham…

Sometimes I envy her.

Which is, of course, ridiculous, and not just because she’s a character in a book.  Her existence is dangerous and rife with conflicts both internal and external.  Still, it rings with clarity.  Her choices may be monumentally difficult and possibly fatal (‘cuz isn’t that more fun to read?) but she lives every moment to the fine edge.  So here are three lessons I’m trying to channel from my heroine this holiday season:

  • Don’t waste time.  The world is shopping days are coming to an end.  Make every second count.
  • When time is running out, remember what is important.  (Hint: It ain’t lump-free icing.)
  • Don’t forget to say I love you.

What lessons have you taken away from your favorite novels?

by Our Guest on November 28th, 2008

There’s been a lot of talk around here this week about rough, tough, kick-butt heroines. But in writing historical heroines who, in order to remain true to their time period, must rely on their wits rather than physical force to survive, I’ve learned there’s more than one kind of strength.
Under certain circumstances, the biggest, strongest person can completely fly apart at the seams because some crises just can’t be resolved with physical force. You can drop-kick and karate chop to your heart’s content but without courage, inner fortitude and the ability to come up with a good plan, you might as well be shadow boxing. Now, I’m certainly not saying that the afore mentioned heroines were in any way lacking in those qualities – quite the contrary. But what I am saying is that sometimes a fiery, resolute spirit isn’t always apparent at first glance.
Sometimes the heroine who seems not only physically, well, wimpy, but downright flighty, insecure and indecisive, can turn out to be the most “kick butt” character in a story. Take pampered, spoiled Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, with her tight pink suits and sorority-girl mentality. No one at Harvard takes her seriously, yet even at her lowest, Elle is able to channel her inner strengths in ways that allow her to stick it to her no-good ex, save a friend from an abusive relationship, single-handedly win an unwinnable court battle AND put a lecherous lawyer in his place. And she even graduates at the head of her class! All without messing up her hair, wrinkling her clothes or kicking a single butt.
And then there is one of my all-time favorites, an unlikely heroine if ever there was one. She’s forgetful, confused, usually lost and gee, she doesn’t even have legs with which to kick-butt. But does she let those things stop her? No way! If this heroine has anything going for her, it’s the purity of her heart and the fact that she knows exactly what’s important in life. When she gives her friendship, it’s given forever, and she won’t let a little thing like forgetting who and where she is prevent her from going all out to help that friend through the worst adversity. In fact, when her very best friend is tragically ready to give up and go home, she keeps fighting…keeps believing. She’s steadfastly loyal, unfailingly brave even when she’s afraid, and hey, she even speaks whale! Who am I talking about…?

Don’t you just love her?
Strength and beauty
by Annette McCleave on November 25th, 2008

The Heroine.

This is a far more challenging topic than the hero. Why? Because she comes in so many different flavors. The hero needs to be hot and dark and dreamy. The heroine, depending on the book you pick up, can be sweet and charming, funny and unpredictable, smart and capable. Or all of the above. And it’s very possible that, if it’s written well, you won’t care which of those qualities she possesses—the important part is the journey the heroine makes. She needs to earn the hero, or the book just isn’t worth reading.

Once upon a time, to qualify as a heroine the female lead had to be virginal, unfailingly kind and an excellent screamer. No, not that kind of screaming. She had to be blessed with a healthy set of lungs so she could scream for help.

Today, we readers have more demanding expectations of our heroines. Virginal is not required, but god help the heroine who is Too Stupid To Live. Kind is still a valued quality, but she no longer has to be consistently kind—in fact we prefer a little realism. So long as she’s well motivated and doesn’t get downright villainous. Today, if someone pushes her, we expect our heroine to push back. As for being rescued? Well, there’s still a fair amount of rescuing going on in romance stories—but sometimes it’s the guy getting rescued. And the heroine rarely sits around waiting to be rescued. Nor does she act in a foolhardy fashion to incite the kidnapping—see note above about TSTL heroines.

When I think back on the romance heroines I have most enjoyed reading about, I see one common thread: they’re all strong. Now, by strong, I don’t mean feisty. No feet stomping here. I mean seriously strong. In fact, some of the best characters are the quiet, almost unsung, heroines. Let’s be honest, though, to face the dark hero long enough to spot that hole in his heart, a heroine has to have some genuine inner brawn.

So, who are some of my favorites?


Yeah, I know. She’s not really a romance heroine. But to me she epitomizes the evolution of the heroine. Unlike Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, she doesn’t wait for her destiny, she goes out and finds it. Yes, she falls into that old trope of dressing like a man, but in the end, it’s her feminine side that wins the day.

Elizabeth Bennet.

She’s not the popular kick-ass heroine, but when she’s pushed, she definitely pushes back. She dares to challenge the social norms and demands to be respected by the hero. I think that’s why Pride and Prejudice has endured as a love story.

Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Smith is the quintessential kick-ass heroine. There’s nothing quiet about her, unless you pair that word with deadly. She’s smart, she’s funny and she even manages to get away with trying to kill the hero several times. We let her, because it’s always clear she’s conflicted.

I bet you have a whole different set of heroines you admire. Wanna share?