Emotion is at the heart of every romance novel. As a writer it’s mission critical to create characters that capture and hold a reader’s interest. A majority of romance readers are women who want to connect with the heroine on some level. Although I tend to visualize my hero first, I worry more about making my heroine the most accessible character in my story.
A few weeks back Laura Kaye outlined what traits a hero must have in order for her to fall in love. It started me thinking about what traits a heroine must have in order for me to invest fully in a story.
- Grounded in reality: A self-aware heroine pulls me right in. I want her to see the world and herself realistically. The character of Min in Jennifer Crusie’s ‘Bet Me’ refuses to get sucked in by smooth talking Cal. Sweet words won’t sway her because she doesn’t want the fantasy. She wants the real deal.
- Smart: Intelligence is key. Penelope Featherington from Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton is smart, witty and savvy enough to save her family from financial disaster. She wants a man but doesn’t necessarily need one in order to survive.
- Sense of Humor – Conflict drives the plot of a story forward. When tension escalates I like a heroine who finds a way to laugh at the situation/herself. One of my favorite examples is Maggie in Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins. This woman knows her life borders on the ridiculous but she embraces it anyway.
- Flawed – I’m not perfect and chances are I won’t identify with a flawless heroine. If you’ve ever read Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas you know the character of Gigi will go to almost any length to get what she wants in life. Her scheming nature, however, allows for great character development as the reader witnesses the price she must pay for her ruthless actions.
What do you like to see in a heroine? As a reader what character trait turns you off the most in a female protagonist?