I read a lot, I read fast and I read across many genres. I also spend a LOT of time thinking about what makes a good heroine. And a LOT more time trying to get that into my books.
So, here are my thoughts on heroines:
- There has to be a reason for the hero to like your heroine. It has to be obvious, so that the reader can see it and they can like the heroine too.
- The heroine has to have depth. By that I don't mean a clichéd angst ridden past that she needs to get over in order to enjoy her life. She needs to be well rounded. People have many complex reasons for why they make the choices they make. Your character has to have that too. A conflicted thought process is much more believable than having her traumatized by the death of her pet goldfish when she was ten.
- The heroine needs character. I don't mean personality. Writers think that if they add little personality quirks to a character it gives them depth. It doesn't. It just makes them annoying. Chewing her lip every time she worries does not make a heroine believable. It doesn't make me care about her. I want to see her have genuine needs and concerns. I want to see her have values and beliefs that influence her life. I want to believe she has a world view that's unique to her and affects everything she does. I want to see her come to life on the page.
- Being pretty is NOT a reason for me to have empathy with a character. One of the books I'm ranting about went on and on about how unusual and beautiful the completely unlikeable heroine was - as though that was enough to justify her behaviour and the hero's love for her. It isn't! It's shallow, annoying and boring.
- Your heroine needs to be consistent! If, for twenty books of a series, a support character behaves one way, she has to behave that way when she becomes the lead character. I don't mean you can't develop her, or bring out qualities we haven't seen before. I do mean you can't completely change her then make up some pat reason why she's so different! If you do you've broken trust with the reader and they may not want to read you again.
- There has to be character development in the book. The heroine has to have changed in some way by the end of the story. We have to see how the plot, and her interaction with the hero, have had an effect on her. Otherwise she may as well be a plastic Barbie doll.
Writing any character who has depth, and is well rounded, is hard. Damn hard. It isn't something you can do to formula. It isn't something you can even achieve every time you write. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try! A great character that breathes on the page, that is so well developed they almost live, is someone a reader never forgets. It's the reason people reread books. It's the reason they care about your work. It's the reason I'm angry with offerings of half-baked heroines who are made up of cliché and shallow affectations!
Okay. Deep breath. I feel better now. This rant is officially over! :D