Showing posts with label heroine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heroine. Show all posts

03 May 2012

Tough Broads

by Deborah Elliott-Upton


 

In creating characters for my stories, I lean toward tough women. I like the idea of spending time with an Ava Gardner, Barbara Stanwyck or Jennifer Lopez type. Tough on the outside, but have a softer side just beneath the surface. They have to be smart, sassy and have a sense of humor that isn't bawdy or giggly, but ready to take a tense moment down a notch if need be. I don't often write about these type of characters when they have reached their maximum strength, but somewhere on the path to that growth. I don't believe whiny, wimpy people -- female or male -- are often heroic and I want the best for my characters and especially for my readers. When I saw the above quote from Joss Whedon, I knew I was in good company.


There has always been something about tough broads in literature that keeps my interest. Keep Pollyanna and send me Scarlett O'Hara. Nancy Drew was one teenage girl who didn't wait for a boy to save her even though the mothers of that time period would have probably advised her to feign a bit of damsel in distress in order to catch her boyfriend's attention. Bring on the Zena, Warrior Princess!

Don't misunderstand. I like a "John Wayne-take charge-kind of guy" for my hero. I just don't think he has to "help the little lady" when she is perfectly capable of doing so herself most of the time. And women with brains are sexier than anything.

I recently read a novel that is selling like hotcakes during a pancake race where the main character is female and supposedly the hero of the story. When she gets into a predicament where I couldn't imagine how she could manage to escape, I was correct. She couldn't. The cavalry arrived in the form of her new and mysterious love interest who "saved" her. I was disappointed and I wondered how many other mystery readers would be also. We'll see if her sequel sells as well as this first book did.

In today's world, equality still doesn't exist in terms of equal pay. Men are still deemed better in combat than their female counterparts. Female roles in movies and television are still less in number than the male opportunities.

That doesn't mean incredibly smart and talented women aren't moving on up the corporate ladder and making their voices heard. They aren't regulated to the kitchen or tea parties in the afternoon unless that is their choice.

Men also have evolved to a new playing field. Men are choosing to become nurses, stay-at-home-dads and airline attendants; choices a few generations ago would have been taboo.

We're changing and I think today's readership enjoys real life women and men as characters in their fiction reading.

I read Johnny Depp will be starring as Nick Charles from Dashiell Hammett's "The Thin Man" series and as yet an uncast Nora. I look forward to seeing who will play that character with a certain bit of sass, brains and sex appeal. What a tough broad she'll be. Can't wait.

30 January 2012

Character Flaws

Jan Grapeby Jan Grape

How in the world can I make my characters believable? you ask. Well, maybe you didn't ask but I give you my thoughts anyway. Good believable characters have flaws. Okay, you already know that.  You've given your hero a chipped tooth and a crooked nose. That are some distinguishing characteristics that make him seem more human. But how about having him be emotionally flawed. (And I'm using the male pronoun here just so I want have to write he/she every time. This is only a matter of convenience...not to be gender specific.) He drinks or his wife died or he's about the lose his job. Something that many of us can relate to and feel as if we know that character.

You don't have to enumerate his good and bad points. Show that in your writing. If he drinks have him have too many drinks and fall down and mess up on what he needs to do.  Or show him trying to quit and going to AA meetings. If he's lost his wife surely he'll recall some good times with her or talk to her or visit her grave. Now losing his wife doesn't mean that's a character flaw but how he deals with that loss can show the flaws in him. Maybe he starts drinking because his wife died and he's about to lose his job because he drinks every night and comes to work hung over and messes up everything he tried to do.

Your imagination can be boundless here. How do you make that character come to life? Maybe you've had someone in your own family who drank and ruined their life. Maybe you used to drink yourself. Draw on whatever life experiences you can manage and if all else fails...go on a little research trip to your neighborhood bar and observe people. Surely you see or overhear someone who has had too much to drink.  Record in your mind how they act and then when you write about your character drinking you'll be able to lend an air of believability to those words.

Okay that was your hero.  How about your villain?  Well for one thing you don't want him to be a horrible, mean, hateful person.  Sure he's all set to be the killer in your book or story but everyone has good points as well as bad. He may seem on the outside to be a charming person liked by all. (I cringe when watching most TV crime/mystery shows because everyone close the victim who was murdered always says..."Everyone loved Mary. I know of no one who would want to kill her.) But your charming and probably good-looking villain is seething with greed or jealousy. Those are traits that you can show when he reacts with family or co-workers. Just a slight moment that gives you a clue to what could be inside his evil mind.

Even if your hero/heroine is flawed, you should somewhere along the line make them likable or endearing or your reader will decide it's not worth their time to read your book.  I have read books where the main character was harsh or spiteful and unlikable in the beginning, but I soon learned a reason why or something happened to make me understand them a little better and about half-way through the book, I realized I liked the character.

Personally, I sorta like to start out liking the main character. Whatever their plight or flaw I began to understand or relate to them quickly and that makes me want to keep reading about them. I think most readers feel like that too.

Be careful about trying to make your character too much like a real person. They might recognize themselves and get mad at you for showing their flaws. Characters must only be a product of your imagination.  They definitely may be a composite of several people you know.  It's just not smart to make your mother-in-law the wicked witch even if she is. Of course some people never see themselves as others see them and may not even recognize themselves, but you probably don't want to take a chance.

I may have told you this before so forgive me if I have, but instead of writing out a biography of your main characters. Write out the contents of their purse or billfold. This is just an exercise for you. Or write out a list of magazines they might have on the coffee table in their living room.  You'll be surprised how many little details you'll discover and hopefully you'll discover their secret flaws.  Once you know their secrets you'll be on your way to making your characters seem like "real" people. And that kids, is my lesson for the day.