Still adventuring in the wilds of New Zealand’s South Island. We’re in Dunedin, the southern most city and I have been searching in vain for wireless internet. I think poor old NZ is rather foot-dragging when it comes to providing free wireless hotspots because there ain’t none around here. Luckily Dr Jax has an iPhone and it can provide me with the access I have come to require, nay demand.
So, had plans for doing lots of lovely writing/editing while I’ve been away but they came to nought. Probably a good thing to have a complete break but it does lead to frustrated writer syndrome (symptoms include grumpiness, impatience with long suffering family, and general wistful imaginings about all the lovely things one could do if only one had enough time on one’s laptop) – which isn’t happy for either me nor my family. Loving the holiday though (especially the three days of unexpected and superb skiing) but will be looking forward to getting back into the swing of writing again.
Anyway, while we’ve been away, I came across an article in the Guardian about writing for Mills and Boon. It was extremely interesting, especially about ‘the heroine problem’. Apparently, according to this journalist, writing M&B heroines is extremely difficult. This is because they provide the reader with the conduit to the hero – in other words the reader needs to be able to imagine herself as the heroine in order to experience the love affair with the hero. But in order to do this, the heroine has to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible – basically she has to be bland enough to appeal to everyone and yet interesting enough to appeal to everyone. Hard, yes? It’s good to know I’m not the only one who thinks so!
This is pretty much my problem with my heroines. I give them things like nose rings and tattoos. Or make them geeks with no self confidence. Or make them flawed in some way. But as soon as you do this – make them extreme in any way – you instantly alienate the readers who don’t understand or can’t relate to that kind of heroine. Which is why my FTH contest heroine didn’t work – she was too extreme in both her views and her appearance, and thus alienated a whole lot of potential readers.
In fact, I had a rather interesting conversation with Dr Jax about this particular issue. I was running my new idea by him and he was asking me why a woman recovering from breast cancer was more acceptable than a recovering addict. I had to point out that addiction was more alienating and less sympathetic than breast cancer, not to mention it was a subject you couldn’t wrap up nicely in 50k or less, even if it did happen in the past. He argued about this but even if a recovering addict was worthy, it doesn’t provide the requisite fantasy or escapism element that you need to have in an M&B.
Even breast cancer may be pushing it. You can’t wrap that up easily either but am thinking I’ll have to make her in total remission, with all her treatment in the past, and, bearing in mind the whole appealing to the widest range of people possible thing, probably not having had a mastectomy.
Of course, I’ll have to hear back about my current sub first before I send anything else out. Sigh.
What does everyone else think about the whole heroine thing? Do you find them difficult to write?