Writing the Perfect Heroine to Match the Gothic Hero

I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off this morning. Between Christmas parties at my kids’ school and my ass-kickin’ P90X routine (60 min every morning), and shopping, and laundry, etc etc etc, I haven’t had time to breathe…until now…and it’s almost lunch.


BUT I was overjoyed to see some of you liked my post on Gothic Heroes the other day and wanted more!

So, how does one go about matching a heroine to these dark bad boys?

You have to know the factor that hooks the reader to the Gothic Hero in the first place. Readers need to feel that urge to find out how he will be redeemed. Throughout the book there should be doubt, uncertainty, his spirit tainted, redemption out of reach…but eventually he finds his saving grace IN HER. THE HEROINE IS HIS GREATEST FLAW. SHE IS HIS WEAKNESS. Whether or not he is good for her, he can’t seem to pull himself away. Only through HER LIGHT AND LOVE does he come around.

Think Twilight’s Edward Cullen and Bella Swan.

He believes his soul is damned. He knows if he gets too close to her, he’ll hurt her. But despite himself he can’t stay away. Through her love for him, through her innocent eyes, he begins to see the good person she sees instead of the monster staring back at him in the mirror.

Making sense?

To match the Gothic Hero, heroines must be
but feminine.
and at times, defiant of him or his overbearing rules.

Above all that, the ONE THING she must be is unambiguous. She has to have strong moral compass.


Because the reader is focused on the moral ambiguity of the hero. The reader is confused by him and how he will be redeemed in the end. The reader, then, should be rooted in his counterpart. Her moral code must come out first and not deviate. She should be secure in her beliefs to lead him to his retribution.

Think Annakin Skywalker and Padme:

If you think back to the Star Wars movie, you’ll remember that her will, her moral compass, never wavers. She is his soundboard. She is his strength, his rock, trying to guide him in the right direction. She is a heroine in her own right: strong, cunning, intelligent.

Side note: The Gothic Hero’s love interest must give a little at the beginning of their relationship. Remember your hero. Put yourself in his shoes. If she gave little understanding and very little empathy, the Gothic Hero would be just as likely to walk away and never look back as he would to kiss her. So be sure not to make your heroine too rough and too mouthy. The key is complement, not repellent.

In Batman Begins, Rachel Dawes (the Assistant DA of Gotham who fights crime the legal way) balances out Bruce Wayne’s Batman persona (who fights crime his way). Could they have chosen a better heroine for that hero? I think not.

She sees a redeemable quality in Bruce Wayne, the tortured boy who saw his parents murdered. She sees the sensitive, love-worthy man behind the caped vigilante.

Her strong moral fiber eventually leads to her demise (sorry for the spoiler if you haven’t seen The Dark Knight) and spirals an already angry Batman deeper down the rabbit hole. (But for the series, the writers needed to keep him dark and angry, remember?)

Of course there are going to be variations to the heroines who balance out these bad boys. Of course there are going to be instances where the perfect complement to the Gothic Hero you’ve written is a Gothic Chick who needs to be redeemed herself. But this is the framework from which to build your Gothic characters.


9 thoughts on “Writing the Perfect Heroine to Match the Gothic Hero

  1. Donna–You're absolutely right in the sense that she's a little *off* if you're matching her to a heroine like Padme from Star Wars. But if you think about it, her position never wavers. She believes Edward has a soul. She wants to be close to him. She doesn't want him to leave her side–EVER–even though he tries over and over again to pull away. How many times does she say that she's not going anywhere. How many times does she ask him to change her? Throughout the books her position is the same (minus the freak kiss with Jacob thing which I think was thrown in to heat-up the book). His wavering when it comes to his internal conflict is balanced by her resoluteness (if that's a word).And actually, I think her clumsiness and naivete are made to look like weakness in the movie, but she read stronger to me.Thanks so much for sharing your opinion and weighing in! πŸ™‚

  2. Another great post, Kristin. I tend to agree with Donna that Bella is not strong whatsoever in my mind. I love the Twilight books, but she is one of the weakest heroines I've ever read. I've heard critics say that one of the reasons young girls took to Twilight so well is because they were able to put themselves in Bella's shoes. She has no other characteristics beside being clumsy and loving Edward. Since she has no strong characterization, we can easily see ourselves as her.Though you're correct too. She does stick to her guns when it comes to Edward's soul. However, she falters constantly between caring for him and caring for Jacob. One of the reason's I liked her better with Jacob is because when she was with him she asserted herself more and the little character she had shined through. With Edward she was so obsessed with him that she thought about nothing else.I think my favorite example of a byronic hero and his strong heroine would be Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman. They're a good pair.Again, awesome post. It's really interesting to think about all this.

  3. Kaiti–To make an argument on Bella's behalf is actually a hard thing for me to do…although I thought the premise for Twilight was great, I didn't fall for any of the characters.That being said, I agree with you about Bella being too weak…even at the end of the fourth book when she should have been strong in her "new gift", she still seemed to fall into it and not harness it the way she should have. In my opinion, anyway. She doesn't fit the typical "heroine" mold, which could be why many teenage girls fell in love with the series to begin with–it was very relatable. You're right. About the caring for Edward, caring for Jacob thing, I'd have to disagree. I think one of the faults of the books was that I never BELIEVED that she'd fall for Jacob. Either the Edward-Bella connection was written too strongly or there wasn't enough spark between Jacob-Bella. To have a love triangle like what she was trying to write, the reader has to be uncertain which person the heroine will pick. I was certain all along. I don't know. I think the faltering back and forth between them wasn't so much going back and forth between being with the two guys so much as choosing between the two different lives…which she got to have the best of both of in the end anyway. (Anyone see a major flaw there? The sacrfice set up through the whole series didn't even happen when she finally chose one life over the other. I was irritated, but that's a whole other post.)Thanks for commenting! I'm loving these exchanges!

  4. Lol! Oh my goodness, don't even get me started on the 4th Twilight book haha. That book ruined the WHOLE series for me. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, at least for me, it is the worst written book I have EVER read. What in the world were her editors thinking? Rennesme or Nessie–seriously? Jacob being in love with Bella's ovaries and Edward ripping open her uterus with his teeth–really? Not to mention, that awful, anti-climatic ending. Like you pointed out, there was no sacrifice whatsoever and it was just happily ever after. In case you can't tell, I was not a fan lol.I understand what you mean about the Jacob romance not being believable. At the time, I guess I had such high hopes for the series that I thought Stephenie Meyer might grow a pair and actually make it into a real love-triangle with real choices haha. If she was going to put Bella with Edward, I think Jacob should have died valiantly trying to save Bella in some epic Volturri battle. But that's just me. Lisa cringes at the fact that I have no problem whatsoever killing off my heroes–I suppose I find it hopelessly romantic and also overwhelmingly heartbreaking to have a hero sacrifice his life for the woman he loves. That's why I hated Breaking Dawn. Love in a novel has to have sacrifice for me.

  5. Ohhh, if it's a hero's death and sacrifice that gets you, you'd LOVE the book I'm writing now. All the makings of a Hamlet ending with main character tragedies to spare. I don't have a problem killing of my darlings either, so it seems…the first book I ever wrote had the hero leaving his one true love to go to war…he died…she loved him forever. I thought it was beautiful…turns out it's far from romance or what's selling right now. *shrugs*And I second everything you said about Breaking Dawn. πŸ™‚

  6. I LOVE endings like that–not to give away the ending to my TFC series or anything lol ;-). I'm really looking forward to reading your manuscripts. They sound really great.I agree. I think that is SO romantic. I can enjoy a good happily ever after once in a while, but I love novels that rip at my heartstrings. The more I cry at the end over how beautiful it is, the better lol.

  7. Great post! Loved the insight about the necessity for the heroine's unfailing moral compass, and how Bella helped Edward see himself as less of a monster because of her love.

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