Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Writer's Corner - YA Heroines: You Said A Mouthful Sister!

I've been concentrating a lot on male characters lately so I want to bring the discussion back to the more popularly used female MCs. There are so many diverse opinions on what a perfect female heroine is, that I get a headache thinking about it. Phrases like Mary-Sue and author wish fulfillment get bandied around a lot and it's enough to make anyone go a bit loopy. Everyone has a differing view as to what a great character is, and it's especially difficult to write an MC who appeals to a lot of people.
        For example: I love Rose Hathaway of Vampire Academy. I think she's a determined, intuitive and kick ass chick. Recently, during a bout of major obsessiveness, I was reading some VA reviews on Goodreads and came upon a review where the writer described Rose using the C-bomb. That really threw me for a bit of a spin. I can understand why Rose wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea but to describe a character in that way, to me at least, they would need to be some sort of family murdering rapist or something.
       Also, I'm a little bored of the shy, selfless, smart but romantically oblivious YA heroines. Part of me is just itching to write a clever, ruthless heroine who doesn't blink at the idea of poisoning someone who abuses her physically. The other part is trying to suppress these slightly sociopathic tendencies.
        So now I have to ask you guys, who are your favourite heroines and what makes them so great?


  1. I would say a heroine who says whatever she wants. She says what's on her mind and doesn't mind getting back at the bad guys. She doesn't let people tell her what to do or walk all over her.

  2. You're a woman after my own heart Sabrina! I was hoping for that exact answer. No pushovers for me thanks.

  3. 1. Rose Hathaway from VA (smart, loyal, brave)
    2. Jael from Misfit (truly independent, intelligent)
    3. Tris from Divergent (Honest, caring, brave)
    4. Katniss from The Hunger Games (courageous and resilient)
    ...I could go on. :) What makes all of those characters really work for me is their combination of courage and compassion. They are also all flawed in some important way, and that makes them even better.

  4. BJ: Rose is my #1 too. Katniss was coming a very close second but then I read Mockingjay and now she's hanging on by a thread. Flaws are another tough nut to crack. What makes a flaw fatal to the point where you don't like a characters anymore? How much should a flaw dominate the MC's personality? The list goes on. Thanks so much for the insight!

  5. OMG this is a hard question! I usually like the bad guys more than... yes, yes, I know how that sounds, but goody two shoes drives me nuts.
    Morgaine, from Mists of Avalon would be one.

    I like characters who are flawed, and sometimes arrogant. I can't name many, because oddly I have some I like, but I don't love. Like Sookie, (in the books) I used to love Sookie, but over time I figured out she is a little dense. I can not stand dense characters.

  6. Beth: I'm so glad to hear that not everyone loves a "nice" heroine. I absolutely cannot stand dense characters. Hence my so so reception to Paranormalcy. Evie was cute but seriously thick and so was everyone else. I wonder if anyone has written a book solely from a villains perspective. That would be worth seeing!

  7. You're totally right, Lan! The beautiful, selfless, and socially awkward heroines are a little overdone nowadays, even though I'll admit that I do have love for many. The only thing that really bothers me is when a girl doesn't think she has any redeeming qualities at all. I like it better when the female protagonist is smart and confident with an awesome sense of humor! :)

    But who says she can't be caring too? Because there's no rule against having a selfless AND kick-ass main character! ;)

  8. I love a good kick-butt heroine. I think the things that draw me most to a character, though, is confidence and capability. Ooo! And right up there is the ability to figure things out (like when to show compassion and when to kick butt:)). And I definitely want her to figure things out AT LEAST as fast as I (the reader) figure things out.

  9. I love ass kicking heroines like Katniss and Rose, but sometimes I can't empathize with them. Like I would never imagine myself in their shoes because they're so badass. So that's why I don't mind the 'vulnerable' ones.

    If there's a perfect blend of these two, the badass and the Mary Sues, I would have to say Helen Hamilton from Starcrossed. She's socially and romantically awkward, but she also has attitude and won't let herself become depressed or obsessed over some gorgeous guy.

  10. @Lan - I think flaws are what readers relate to, particularly if the character is struggling with the flaw. Tris, for example; she won me over completely in the first few chapters where she agonizes over knowing she'll never be unselfish enough for Abnegation. LOVE that, because it's something we all feel but rarely admit. Katniss borders on unlovable at times because she's so reluctant to let people close - but then she looks after Rue, and wins us over. Rose's impulsiveness gets her into trouble, but she always learns from her mistakes (only to make new ones LOL), and her choices are always motivated by good intentions.
    So... flaws + growth = awesome characters. :) Flaws only...meh. Book, meet wall...

    @Peggy - agreed! If I've figured out the villain/mystery chapters before the heroine does, it rather kills the tension of the story.

  11. Awesome post! I've read some of those reviews about Rose as well. I think she's a total kick butt character, if somewhat too devoted to Lissa. But I still think she's awesome!

  12. Mimi: There is nothing worse (besides stupid MC's) than one who is good at everything but doesn't think so and needs to be told by others. Humility is great but not to the detriment of self awareness.

    Peggy: I def want the heroine to figure things out at the same time I do! Otherwise I just end up get aggravated!!

    Amy: I hear you. It's hard for us mere mortals to relate to someone super special all the time. I haven't read Starcrossed but will look it up for reference. Thanks :)

    BJ: Your insights always make me ok 'oh yeah!' What you said about flaws makes perfect sense. Whether I could incorporate them into my book is another thing altogether. hehe

    Christy: Finally! Another person who thinks the Rose/Lissa dynamic is way too one sided. I love Rose to death but I could never warm to useless Lissa and then the thing with Dimitri happened and I want to put a stake through Lissa.

  13. I think I'm more into the kick-ass heroines than the overdone one's you stated above. Whereas I loved Katniss, Bella got on my nerves and under my skin. So any heroine with intelligence and as Peggy stated "confidence and capability" will shine in my book. Great question and discussion!

  14. Loving this post and all the discussion generated. Im a little conflicted - I want heroines to be strong and kickbutt but not to the point that i cant relate to them ( because no matter how i wish it, i could never shoot arrows like Katniss or fight off mutant dogs that look like my friends. Have a hard enough time with threading.) So heroines with a flaw, and a little vulnerability are preferred. Maybe its the same conflict i feel with male leads in a book. Alpha male is so sexy but would i really want to live with one forever? ugh. And goody two shoes is reliable and good but who wants reliable and trustworthy in their fantasy fiction? A little bit of badness please. Maybe the female heroine needs to be the same for me to like her. Hmmm logging off here still thinking about it!

  15. I'm 100% with loving Rose. I think she will forever be my favorite heroine because she is the combination of that loyal trustworthy friend, but then when things need taken care of she takes care of them.

    Cammie from The gallagher girls series is also one that I enjoy. She's not completely dense, and she has that whatever type attitude. it also doesn't hurt that she's a spy. How aewsome would that be?

  16. I like Rose a lot. And like the above commenter, I really like Cammie. I also adore Sydney from Bloodlines, perhaps even better than Rose because she thinks before she acts.
    On the Mary Sue side, I do think Bella is a lot stronger than people give her credit for. Yes, she has the tendency to whine and faint. But she also knows what she wants - to become a vampire - and nothing Edward can say can change her mind. She manages to persuade Edward to do what she wants slowly, but steadily. And of course, she rules the day at the end of Breaking Dawn.

  17. Jade: Yay for the kick ass heroines. I will never stop loving reading about them.

    Lani: Argh! Now you've got me thinking about the Hero as well and what makes a great hero. Maybe I can save that discussion for another post, because you are 100% right. It's so difficult to balance a capable heroine and make her relateable as well.

    Ashley: Rose is just the best. I have such a girl crush on her. She's tough but there are so many things that she cares about and I like that she is torn between her love for Dimitri and her duty to protect Lissa and that she doesn't let her entire life be dominated by a guy.

    Alison: I haven't read Bloodlines yet. I am not an avid Adrian lover so there's not that interest to me. I think curiosity will get the better of me eventually. While I respect Twilight and what it's done to attract people to reading again, I have t say Bella isn't my fav MC. I don't mind that she is obsessed with Edward (because let's face it who among us hasn't be crazy about a guy before?) it's the awful way she treated Charlie and her friends that got to me. I can still appreciate how readers could relate to her though. She's just not for me.

  18. "...clever, ruthless heroine who doesn't blink at the idea of poisoning someone who abuses her physically." Yes, yes, and yes! I love a strong heroine, and I've been contemplating writing one like this myself. One of my favorite traits (particularly in a female MC) is an unapologetic attitude. I hate it when not only is the world coming down on them, but they come down on themselves all the time. Girl power, people! That's what it's all about. One of my favorites is Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs's series. She's one of the best I've found (along with Lisbeth, Katniss, Katsa, Harper Connelly, and Hermione, of course). I do think there need to be all different kinds of female leads, but the kick-ass kind is def. my favorite!
    Ninja Girl

  19. I have to admit, I tend to like the bitchy girls in books and TV: They're usually smarter and tougher than the nice girls, so as long as they have layers and aren't too horrible, I root for them. It's true that what I find entertaining in fiction, I might not like in life, but that's what I read books for: the fantasy. So MCs I like include Rose, Isabel from the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Felicity from the Gemma Doyle books and Blair from Gossip Girl.

  20. Ninja Girl: I hadn't even thought about the MC having an unapologetic attitude until you mentioned it. Mercy Thompson is coming up a lot in these discussion. I def have to read those books!

    TG: I like the bitchy girls too! Blair is my absolute fav from Gossip Girl. What you said about them was right on the money. There's usually so much more depth to mean girls than nice ones which is why I liked them. Take Johanna Mason from Hunger Games. She wasn't nice at all but I loved her. Much more than Katniss in the end.

  21. I'll admit that I tend to like the shy, awkward heroines, because I tend to relate to them better. Girls like Katniss are awesome, but I never seem to connect with them. It's like they're too awesome to really be sympathetic. But I do love Katsa from Graceling--she's strong but still likeable. And I love any heroine from Robin McKinley's books--those girls kick A but do it in a way that I'm like, "Hey, maybe that could be me."

  22. I have to agree with you about being sick of oblivious heroines. I hate shouting at the pages "Hello! Are you blind?! Dumb?! What's wrong with you!" Then my hubby looks at me funny. I wonder why? ;)

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