Wednesday, August 4, 2010

WIP Wednesday

Is it a sin to contemplate cold-blooded murder if the person you want to kill lives only in your imagination? I certainly hope not, because I’m about ready to strangle the heroine from my Medieval WIP, Her Heart’s Desire. My sudden dislike of this heroine isn’t her fault, of course. She is as demure and reserved as I’ve asked her to be, behaving with all of the grace and dignity of a gentlewoman in 12th Century England. And I hate her for it.

She has no backbone – not in the beginning chapters, anyway – yet she is the backbone of the story. If she doesn’t stand up to the hero (and his evil relatives) right from the start, then her bold actions in middle of the story will surely seem out of character. Worse, there won’t be sufficient conflict in those oh-so-important first three chapters.

The heroine in my other Medieval WIP is easier and more fun to write because she is bold and defiant. But she’s a litter older and a lot more vexed than the heroine in Her Heart’s Desire, who is young and very innocent in the first part of my manuscript. When I first started to write her story, I didn’t want her to be “feisty” like the heroines of old. I wanted her to be dutiful in the first chapters and not offer much resistance to the hero. So that’s how I wrote it. And now my heroine is one boring maiden.

From everything I’ve read I know a great heroine should:

• Not be a doormat

• Be strong enough to handle the hero, even at his worst

• Have an inner strength, even if they are quiet and mousy

• Be kind and gentle (but not so kind that they become too fluffy)

• Complement the hero and serve as a foil to him

• Not be too stupid to live

• Not be perfect

• Can be tormented but not tortured by their pasts

• Not be weak

I’ve read lots of romances featuring quiet heroines who were strong enough to handle the hero. I know it’s possible to create this type of heroine; I just need to figure out how to do it. I need my heroine to be great! If you have any suggestions on how to keep my heroine graceful yet strong, I’d love to hear it.


  1. I do not envy you in this position.

    I had a boring and even whiny heroine for my last manuscript and it was very difficult to make her strong. I focused on the reasons I liked her to begin with and what made her the right heroine for that story and that hero. I analyzed what made her boring and scene by scene I tried to make her better. Mine was TSTL in some scenes, but then I rewrote the scenes so that she didn't do the right thing, but she didn't do the dumb thing either. I gave her a backbone, but what she chose to do and how she chose to react didn't always work. It often ticked the hero off.

    Good luck with your WIP!

  2. Hang in there, Jena. Part of the fun of writing is watching characters grow. Often a writer can't see what needs fixing until the pages start to add up. Keep writing and use your character as a "blank marker" for now. As the story progresses, the plot will likely demand action from her that might solve your problem - along with a little revision, of course!

  3. Jena, Strange as it may sound, I've changed a character's name in order to change her personality and give her a bit more strength. Even if she is reserved externally, she can have an inner strength, even be an inner rebel. Think about her past and what significant things happened there to shape her into the person she is, the person she needs to be in order to be an equal of a strong hero. Best of luck!!

  4. I'll echo Nicole's advice. I've done that before. It seemed to change her personality in my head when I did that.

    Good luck! :-)

  5. Thanks for the advice, ladies! I'll keep you posted on how my rewrites go.

  6. Good luck, Jena. I wrestled a quiet but spine-of-steel heroine to the ground once, and it's not easy. Feisty is easier to write, but I've discovered the quieter ones are so much more interesting in the end.

    What I did with Tess was go deep into her POV in early scenes so readers could see how her words didn't match her thoughts and how she planned to subvert her uncle's plans. Then, as she became feistier as the book progressed, the character growth wasn't a shock.

  7. Hey there Jena. I can feel with you on this one. I didn't think my heroine was this way until someone pointed something out to me. This is how I handled it. I gave her a part of me.

    I am the kind of person who can take a lot. I have huge shoulders. Eventually though, the shoulders will break and when I have been broken you had best get out of my way! Thankfully, I don't break very often! Maybe you could have something like that happen to her. Someone pushing her around and she finally breaks and tells them where to go and draws them a map to get there! Maybe have something embarressing happen to her. I think we all hate to be embaressed. Have someone do it on purpose and she snaps.

    Good luck in your writing and I hope it works out!

    P.S. I loved the first line of your blog!

  8. Nat - I'm in the middle of this WIP but currently working revising the beginning chapters to add some much needed backstory and create a stronger 'first meet' scene.

    Keena - I agree that feisty heroines are easier to write. I'm going to go deep in my heroine's POV like you suggested.

    Sarah - I like your idea about giving my heroine a part of me. I was thinking about doing just that even before I read your comment, and now I think that's the perfect way to go. Thanks for the advice!