The Trouble with Women

So I had problem with alphas in my last post. My new hero, Mr Rough, is being let off the reins and he’s loving it, but now I’m wondering all over again about sympatheticness (if that’s even a word) as it relates to the heroine. The romance heroine does have a reputation for being a perfect, self-sacrificing, paragon of a woman, brutally manhandled by the hero before making him bow down before her like a unicorn before a virgin (and she’s often that too).

Now, I have to say right up and here and now that I hate those heroines. I don’t want to read about perfect, self-sacrificing people. I want to read about flawed, imperfect individuals who go on a journey to either overcome those flaws or to learn to accept that they’re actually not flaws at all. And yet right now, in my WIP, I have a heroine who wants to take control of her father’s money. She wants to control her father’s money because he controlled her as a child and she wants payback. For herself. And yet I’m trying to make this motivation less mercenary and cold by including her feelings about protecting her mother in there, purely because I’m wondering if a reader will find her too mercenary. Too unsympathetic. Too selfish. And this annoys me because it’s predictable. Always the heroine has to have some unselfish motivation because no one likes a cold-hearted woman. It’s always her mother or her brother or sister or her poor widowed auntie.

Why can’t she want to have something for herself? Why can’t she be as cold and as ruthless as the hero? Especially if she’s motivated enough?

We’re hard on our heroines I think. They’re supposed to be the placeholder for ourselves and so they can’t be seen as selfish or anything too extreme or else they risk alienating us.

Me, I’m a forgiving reader. But I hate stupidity in heroines and doormattery and too much self-sacrifice. I also can’t stand kick-assedness for the sake of it. But I can handle a heroine being selfish. I can handle a heroine who takes the diamonds the hero wants to give her and also the hot sex because she wants it and she likes it. None of this ‘oh no, I can’t. It would demean me!’ or ‘I must take the diamonds to pay for healthcare for my poor sick granny and bear the sex because I said I would’ crap.

What about you? What turns you off in a heroine? What can’t you forgive? And is liking her instantly really that important?

12 thoughts on “The Trouble with Women”

  1. Please please let your heroine take her revenge for selfish reasons. I am so tired of heroines who only do things because of other people. I love the Modern/Presents series but I’ve almost stopped reading them and certainly no longer submit because of this issue. I long to see the alpha male pitched against an equally tortured alpha female. So go for it Jackie, I would buy this book in a heartbeat.

  2. Very well said Jackie. I’m very much in favour of the flawed heroine.

    The sub I have out at the moment with Entangled has a heroine who’s a self-centered workaholic. You’re right about it being a fine line between flawed and just plain awful though. Very tricky. Know you can do it though.

    Good luck!
    Christy

  3. Jackie, (and KarenB!) you know *I* believe there’s a place for a flawed heroine. I’ve just a heroine who committed fraud in order to elevate her position in life, I’ve had a heroine who, as I’ve joked, sold herself for a latter, or more truthfully, entered into a convenient marriage to have her wealth, comfort and fame restored. And my very first Presents heroine proposed a marriage of convenience so she could get a hold of her father’s company. Because she wanted it, not to feed any starving orphans. 😉 Just like with heroes, it’s all about motivation. All about making it make SENSE to the reader. Because I think if the reader GETS it, and why it’s all so important, it become sympathetic, even without the reasons being altruistic. I think creating ‘sympathy’ in the reader, is really more giving them that emotional connection, by making them understand where your h or H are coming from.

  4. Karen – Lol! I am SO with you on the wanting to see tortured alpha females. My last heroine was an alpha female all right and this one is going to be too (in a different way). But, yeah, you know, I think I will make her want control of the money because she wants POWER over her father.
    Oh and if you want to read some very cool heroines, you should pick up Maisey’s books (and not just because she’s my CP). She has done some AWESOME ladies.

    Christy – Yeah, flawed heroines unite I say! Great re your sub. She sounds fabulous so good luck with it! But you’re right, there is a fine line. All in the execution eh? Thanks for the faith too. 🙂

    Maisey – Yeah, absolutely. And I love what you said about creating sympathy. THAT is the key isn’t it? That emotional connection where you understand why the character does it, even though you may not agree with what they’re doing. Well said!

  5. I like heroines with a bit of spunk and there’s nothing wrong with them wanting more out of life (as per their motivations).

    What about in Gentlemen prefer Blondes where Loreli (Marilyn Monroe) talks about why she wants to marry for wealth. Her honesty makes sense and her prospective FIL suddenly likes her and the wedding goes ahead.

    As long as you have a ‘nice’ heroine, I dont have a prob with her wanting revenge 🙂

    Good luck with your mss!!

  6. Joanne – yes, good point re Loreli. Well, not sure my heroine is nice particularly. But she IS well motivated so I might hang on to that and hope she’s at least understandable! And thanks for the good lucks. 🙂

  7. We women are a fickle lot aren’t we? We seem to dislike women who are strong and stand up for themselves, who are flawed and a bit selfish too, but when we see the same trait in a man – then that’s ok as he’s “strong and capable”. And that’s where it hard for a writer. Elinate the reader by making a herione too ballsy so as to “put the reader off” (as I’ve read in “How To” books on writing) and wham the book is tossed aside.

    It’s a very thin tighrope here me thinks! But I know you can do it Jackie! No pressure of course!! Caroline x

  8. I agree with you Jackie-I really like a heroine who can hold her own, who’s ambitious, and who has major goals and has had a past. To me, it’s interesting and real to see her try and overcome these obstacles. I guess it is in the execution though, to make the reader really ‘get’ why she’s a certain way. Which I’m sure you’ll do…:-)

  9. Caroline – got it in one. Yeah, it is a very thin tightrope. Lol, I hope I’ve done it. I guess I’ll find out if not. 🙂

    Victoria – I hope I do DO that. But sometimes you think you’ve got it down on the page and then you realise you haven’t. I tend to go for the subtle approach and that isn’t always the best for the reader. Ah well. 🙂

  10. Jackie, I don’t think her motivation has to be all sweet and pure. It doesn’t have to be all nice and flowery and self-sacrificing. She can be selfish and ballsy and give as good as she gets. She doesn’t have to be doing it for her Mum/little brother/ Great Auntie Dora.

    I think that’s a misunderstanding of what is meant when we talk about a heroine needing to be “sympathetic”.

    It doesn’t mean likeable. It means understandable.

    She can be totally out for herself.

    But the reader has to understand her, why she’s like that. The reader has to be able to imagine how it would feel to do that herself.

    And I’m very sure you can do it magnificently, no matter how high and how narrow that tightrope is!

  11. I love flawed heroines, but I have been told by TPTB that readers accept a lot less bad behaviour from the heroines than they do their heroes. However, that was awhile ago and I think it’s changing. The heroines of my last few books for Modern/Presents have been, imo, *quite* flawed. And my current one is perhaps the most flawed of all. Some readers still don’t like that, but I too am tired of the noble, self-sacrificing heroine who doesn’t have much of an emotional journey to make.

  12. Autumn – lol! True! Though, sometimes the tightrope can be too narrow for me. Sigh.

    Kate – oh yay, that makes me happy. Must go and get your latest. Yes, I guess there will always be readers who want a perfect heroine. But it’s good to hear there are people who find that as tiresome as I do. And authors who want to push what’s acceptable.

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