Reflections on Heroines

I have been reading Jane’s blog and trying to pass on the advice about internal conflict that I was given in my rejection. Which meant I had to read the damn rejection email again. And you know what? I realise that in fact, I hadn’t read it properly. Or at least, I only saw parts of it. Thing is, when you get rejected, the only things you see are the words “However” and “Sadly” and “Sorry to disappoint you on this occasion”. And then you close the email because it’s a rejection and that’s it, it’s over.
However, I had failed to see these little comments: “in parts this story is absolutely brilliant” and “your hero is a perfect Modern Heat hero”. Don’t know how I managed to miss those but having seen them now, I am feeling a lot better about my poor rejected ms!

I wasn’t going to look at this story just yet because it felt too sad, but I’ve decided I’m going to make a push to rewrite it sooner. It seems a pity to waste the parts of the story they really liked, not to mention a hero that is ‘perfect for Modern Heat’. However, it does mean a heroine overhaul. Which means a plot overhaul. Part of the reason for the rejection was that I was trying to make my heroine, Christie, do things she wouldn’t do, inventing all kinds of reasons for her to act in a certain way that would fit the situation I’d given her. She was a geek with no self confidence and no experience of men who has to set up a date via the internet. And then the date turns out be this incredibly handsome, incredibly confident guy who makes her stammer and stutter, and then she has to choose to have a one night stand with this guy… Argh! You see my problem? Anyway, I loved the setup. I wanted it to work. I gave her a boss who would have fired if she didn’t set up the date (it was research for a computer magazine), a friend who pushed her into it, and an ex boyfriend who had found someone new as a catalyst. And still it didn’t work – it just wasn’t something her character would do and ending up being completely unconvincing.

However, that being said, M&B thought she was a lovely heroine. She was unconfident but she had this little streak of stubborness and fire (she accused the hero of cowardice at one point which again was something they really liked because it struck directly at his internal conflict). So how to keep these nice parts of her and yet give her some decent conflict and a set up that works? Interestingly, in the first draft she had a mother that ran her down all the time and the advice I was given by M&B was to think about this angle when redoing her conflict. Unfortunately I went about it in the wrong way, making her mother’s opinion define her when in fact an adult woman (so I was told) would no longer let her mother’s opinion dictate what she did (let’s just forget about the people in real life who DO actually let this happen for the moment shall we?).

My solution is this: her mother will contribute to her conflict but won’t define her character. Her mother wanted a pretty princess and instead got a tall, lanky tomboy who hated dresses. After a childhood trying to be what her mother wanted, Christie decided that she’d never be that person (see? this is her choosing not to be defined by it), and so followed her interests in computers, becoming a hotshot female game developer. This involves her being around guys all the time since that’s the industry, but she will see herself as one of them, ie neglecting the fact that she is female. Now her real conflict is that she doesn’t realise how much her mother’s disappointment in her as a girl has affected her own sense of self worth. No matter that she’s successful in her work, she’s constantly compared to her older brother who is married with kids and her mother is always telling her she’ll be on the shelf because no one will be interested in such an unfeminine woman. But my heroine doesn’t want to accept that – she’s been accepted in her job the way she is after all. However, her job isn’t the same as romance and what she begins to discover is a fear that her mother is right, she will not be loved for who she is but who she’s expected to be.

This is not to say that this will work. I actually have no idea yet and probably need to develop this a bit more. But I think, if I can pull it off, it will be a much better conflict than the two scenarios I previously tried to use. And better, I won’t be constrained by fitting the conflict around an already written set up. In fact, I’m giving them a whole new setup that won’t be complicated by things forcing the heroine into meeting the hero.
Weelll, now that I think about it, there may be a teeny, tiny complication but we’ll see how we go. 😉

15 thoughts on “Reflections on Heroines”

  1. Jackie – this sounds brilliant and SOOOOOOOO much stronger!!! Can you come up with ways to rework all my plots? LOL!!

    I LOVE the set-up too btw!!

    :)Rach!

  2. Oh, you like Rach? Yeah, I’m hoping this one will actually fly. Sadly though the setup will change – I guess I could have it but the fiddling around I had to do to make it convincing for my hero to accept a blind date on the internet…
    Sure I’ll change your plots. For a small fee. 😉

    Becca – well, my new setup is that my heroine still does the internet date and starts with her in a bar meeting her prospective date. But as she’s never seen him, she doesn’t know what he looks like. He tells her to look out for a guy with a red rose (corny i know!) so she does but unfortunately the guy with the red rose is the wrong one…Enter the hero who has bought a rose as a joke for a friend he’s supposed to meet and who is very surprised when this tall, gangly woman sits down next to him and starts talking to him as if she knows him…
    Things progress from there.;-)

  3. Wow! What a gift to sit down and read your letter and see things you’d missed. And what things!

    Absolutely brilliant and perfect MH hero. Jackie, you must be 99.9999% there. I am so pleased you re-read your letter.

    And great post again.

  4. Lacey, I suppose, now I think of it, that was a slightly gratuitous posting! Argh. Didn’t mean to blow my own trumpet (we Kiwis are deathly afraid of doing that), it was more a case of reasons for rewriting a rejected ms! Then again, it is nice to share nice comments don’t you think?

    Thanks Joanne. I am a bit of ditz not to see what was in the letter. I suppose I must have read those comments, just not really taken them in when all I could see is “No, this story is not quite there yet”. 🙂

  5. Mm, interesting post Jackie.
    Those comments are great, I think it’s important to pass them on to us so we can use them to help you fight the crows off if they return.

  6. Nothing really left to say except your insights into onternal conflict are truely amazing.

    Yes we tend to focus on negatives don’t we, but the fact that they want to work with you is testement to their faith in your ability. That is, they know a good thing when they see it!

  7. Phew! Whoever said writing was easy Jackie? Your plot sounds very interesting. I’ve toyed with the mother/daughter issue. One thing I have found out by reading around etc. is that sometimes when a mother ignores a daughter that can have more of a profound effect on a person than a mother that snipes all the time etc. This could then lead to a plot developing along the lines of the heroine having to make something out of her life etc. etc. because of her mother’s indifference. Sorry for the rambling – but that’s me! Take care. Caroline x.

  8. Fabulous, Jackie! As far as internal conflict goes, I think the self-esteem issue is a gift that keeps on giving . . . because there are so many wonderful (or not so wonderful for them) ways this can manifest itself between the H/H. I have NO doubt you’ll turn the manuscript into something M&B can’t refuse.

    Amy

  9. Lorraine – thanks! No matter how many nice comments you get, the crows always seem to come landing.

    Janette – don’t know if amazing is the right word. Still haven’t had anything accepted so I may be completely wrong! But thanks for your lovely comments. 🙂

    Caroline – thanks for that. Yes, indifference can definitely have as much or more impact on a child as criticism. I do have a reason for her mother acting in this way though, other than the fact that she didn’t get the daugher she hoped for. And I have other plans for great tension between the h&h where something he does makes her accuse him of being just like her mother. Of course, again, this could all be completely misguided and it’ll be a no go. I’ll let you know if not! 🙂

    Amy – cheers! I love self-esteem being the gift that keeps on giving!! Yes indeed, it’s a great conflict and the ways in which tension can be created are many and manifest. Did I mention that I love torturing my characters? Boy have I got some great scenes for these two. Poor things.

  10. As you know, I love a good heroine and my opinion is that you have a great one here. I can’t speak for other readers, but as a strong, modern woman (most of the time!) I like heroines who are strong and independent. Add to that a few self-esteem issues that most women can identify with … and already you’ll have the reader hooked.

    Add a hero to die for (which you already have) and the sparks are sure to fly …

  11. Great post and I love your insight in to internal conflict.

    Your set up sounds really good 🙂

    Good luck with the re-writes – am sure they’ll be fab 🙂

  12. Oooh, Romy, you make me want to forget my current WIP and to get into rewriting this one! And you know what? She has always been my favourite heroine…

    Thanks Joanne! I’m hoping the setup will work too. All I have to do is give her a reason to go on a date (the teeny, tiny complication). 😉

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