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.

Dreaming about your hero. And a contract!

I had the craziest dream last night. I’m typing it down as fast as I can so I don’t forget any details…I’m sure if I went on with my day, the dream would vanish and I’d barely remember my Hero being in it.

That’s right. I had the very first dream about my hero, Ruan, from Immortal, Beloved.

It was freaking awesome.

The dream started out with my travels in a foreign country. (I’m thinking Russia, although I’ve never known Russia to be that country-fied-rural and my book isn’t set there.) I came upon his ranch, where he lived with his step-father, mother and a bunch of brothers and sisters. I was lost. He offered to show me the way back to society, after he finished a couple things he had to do for the day. So I followed him around while he expertly ran this hundred acre ranch. We talked. And talked. And talked.

He was such a gentleman! Helping me over fallen limbs. Carrying me over rivers so my shoes didn’t soak. Holding my hand to guide me around trees and over fences. Wanna hear the crazy thing? I was me. I had a husband of nine years–we talked about him and how great he is. I had two children–he mentioned how he wanted kids eventually. I felt like from a few hours time, we were long lost friends.

Soon, his quietly bold attitude and some of the things he said started to trigger my brain. I felt like I knew this guy. The logical part of my head kept trying to place him somewhere in my waking life, but couldn’t.

When it was time to leave, for him to show me the way home, I asked for his name and was blown away.

Ruan.

What a surprise–even to myself. I was so shocked! It all made sense! The chivalry! His rugged good looks! His mannerisms! The way I felt like I’d known him forever!

Thank you Ruan, for showing me how unforgettable you are. You came to life for me. And soon, you’ll come to life for everyone else.

**I signed my Harper Collins contract yesterday! It’s on its way to Spencerhill, then back to the publishing house. (Very side note: I’m going to write a post soon about how important it is to have a good agent who fights for you and your interests. Those contracts are sticky. I got very lucky.) It rained yesterday too! All-around perfect day around these parts.

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.

*whew*

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
Strong
but feminine.
Intelligent
Cunning,
Secure
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.

Why?

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.

Writing the Gothic Hero

I’m currently a tad stuck with the hero in my WIP. I think it’s because I took too much of a writing hiatus (no new pages in two weeks–longest dry spell to date) and my hero’s voice kind of faded. It’s not that I don’t still LOVE him or think he’s one of the strongest characters I’ve written, it’s just that his voice wasn’t ever-present in my head anymore. I couldn’t see and hear what he’d do in every situation I threw him up against. (And he’s got to be ready for what’s to come! These next fifty pages are going to turn his world upside down!) That’s when I started researching to get to know my hero better…

There are three types of Gothic Heroes

PROMETHEAN

This guy is the classic overachiever.
He stands behind his own moral code.
He often does “good” by performing rebellious acts or breaking laws.
This guy sacrifices his own well being so others may have little things like freedom and love.
This guy kicks some ass, breaks some laws, but does it all for the sake of his own special brand of “justice”.
He could also possibly bear personal responsibility for some failure in his past.

*Think Batman saving Gotham.


*How’d this picture sneak in here?

BYRONIC

Oh, these are the dark, dark, dark bad boys.
They’re secretive
Aristocratic
Introspective
Suave
Very conflicted over something in their past and
Fatally attractive.
They’re also extremely arrogant
Cunning
Jaded and
World weary.

*Think Anne Rice’s Lestat from Interview with a Vampire


*Or Edward Cullen from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, if you prefer.

SATANIC

These guys are fascinating
Egotistical
Reckless
Dark and
Mysterious.
They’re obsessive
Brooding
And can also have their own moral code (although they willingly sacrifice little of themselves to achieve their end goal).
One of the key components to this guy is no matter how close he gets to the flame, he doesn’t ever think he’s the one who’s going to get burned.

*Think Annakin Skywalker from Star Wars Episodes 1-3.


*Or maybe just veer from the gothic hero for a moment and look at this…

*See? Isn’t research fun? (Side note: He was my pick to play Edward Cullen. Wouldn’t he have been fantastic?)

Seriously though, after researching the three types of Gothic Heroes, you may be asking yourself the same thing I was…Why On Earth Are These Men Heroes? Brooding and moody? Troubled pasts? Burdened by secret guilt? Jaded and arrogant? I don’t know about you, but in real life those traits don’t scream Dating Quality.

The Promethean Hero is appealing because although he is doing wrong, we, as readers, can somewhat understand the logic behind his moral ambiguity. Sure, Batman is killing people…but he’s killing inherently evil people. He’s cleaning up the streets of Gotham, right? We want to be the heroine at his bad-ass side, whispering in his ear, telling him to do right…when what we really enjoy is the duality in his nature.

The Byronic Hero is appealing because…well because they’re bad boys. They can never accept praise because they think they’re the villain. They don’t feel worthy of love. Heroines see the sensitivity behind the tough guy act and fall hard. Only through the heroine can the Byronic Hero step into the light. Don’t you just want to be that heroine who turns the bad boy good?

The Satanic Hero is appealing because they are secure and defiant and constantly search for meaning outside of the traditional norms. They have a sense of purpose that draws heroines (and readers) in. They have a fire burning within them…a passion, if you will. Heroines and readers alike hope that by being that Satanic Hero’s leading lady, that passion will translate into their relationship. (It often does, fyi, at the cost of other things in the heroine’s life.

I think I know where the hero in my WIP falls among the Gothic Heroes. He’s Byronic all the way..but what about the hero in your WIP? Is he solidly one? A blend of two? I’m curious to hear what’s being written out there…

Also, did this post interest you? If I did another post on what type of heroines are best suited for Gothic Heroes would you find it helpful? I’ve researched hours and hours and would love to pass on the information if even one person found it as useful as I have. (You can either comment or email.)