Crafting a Heroine for your Hero

I received the following comment from my Writing the Perfect Heroine to Match the Gothic Hero post:

“i’m not much into paranormal things, vampires or whatever, but my class at school was learning about gothic literature and i loved your post on gothic heroes.
personally i love byronic heroes. it’s the tragedy and the darkness surrounding them that hooks me into it. i actually posted a few comments on the gothic heroes post and wanted an opinion on my two guys. the byronic hero and the byronic/promethean mix.

now i want an opinion on my heroines. for my byronic hero, i took inspiration from padme from star wars. i like how she is morally strong and fights for what is right. my heroine is morally upright and has strong principles, but also kind and passionate in her love for the hero. she tries to show him the right path, but she never pushes him,she teaches but never tries to talk down to him. she is a light for him so that he can find the correct road.

the other heroine i got inspired from was bella. it’s the idea that no matter how dark the hero sees himself as, she always shows him the lighter side within himself. the heroine is not innocent, but pure. curious, but not naive. her youth and optimism makes the hero remember a time when he was also that way, makes him believe that he can do what is morally right. just like she can.
what do you think of my heroines? anyone i’d love to get an opinion, or tell me what i’m doing wrong. one day i’m going to be a writer, it’s always been a dream and i love to write. so i hope it happens.”

*I actually posted the comment, replied, then decided it would make a great post in and of itself. I deleted the name of the person who asked the question. I hope that’s all right. (And if it’s not, “S” please feel free to email me and I’ll delete this post right away.)

My response was this:
First, let me say I think it’s Great! Amazing! Wonderful! that you’re writing and developing your craft and creating new characters. This writing world is very small–much smaller than it seems–and I hope to read your work one day!

Not to get down to the nitty-gritty…without reading your book and getting to know your heroines, it’s very hard to say what I think of them. I’ve read romance novels from New York Times Bestselling authors and have absolutely hated the heroine in them. I’m sure they crafted the heroine perfectly…there just had to be something that didn’t resonate with me. It may have been the author’s voice, the character arc (or lack thereof), or maybe even the style of writing. Hard to say. I think the best thing you can do is write a heroine who you would either like to be or have as a best friend.

As far as the gothic loverboys go, the archetypes I defined in the Gothic Hero post are simply cookie-cutters for you to mold you hero out of. It’s easy to look back and say, “Yes, this hero fits right here”, but it’s a whole other beast to write that character effectively if the writer becomes too focused on the “type” they are writing. I know every writers’ process is different, but I don’t actually sit down and pick and choose which hero I’d like to write and which type of heroine he’d best be paired with. (In fact, sometimes the fun is pairing them with someone who is all wrong for them, and watching the characters change on the page for each other.)

I think the main thing is to let the hero and heroine choose you. Who do you picture in your story as the conflict consumes them? What changes will they go through when the fire closes in and the tension escalates? What will become of them? Who will they love? How will they change for that love? What will they have to sacrifice?

I think by choosing a character and asking those questions of them (and you) you’ll find out what type of hero you’re writing…instead of the other way around.

If you want to learn more about all types of heroes and heroines (not just the gothic ones) there’s a great book called “The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes” that you should check out. It’s by Tami Cowden, et. al. (I’ve included the link to purchase it on Amazon above.)

I used it as a guide while figuring out the characters in the first book I ever wrote–you know, the one that will never see the light of day? Yeah. That one. Now, I define the characters as I go, bashing through some archetype walls while falling in line with other classic models…all without meaning to.

“S”, I hope this helped…if it helped anyone else, I’d love to hear it. And let me just say, again, every writer has their own process. All I can tell you is mine, so if you want something to balance it against, you might want to keep on researching, compiling your data until you discover what works for you.

Keep reaching for those dreams “S”! If you want it bad enough, it’ll happen.


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