How to Create Empathetic Heroines

I’ve heard more than one writer say they have no problem creating fantastic, sexy, to-die-for heroes, but their heroines were either the walking dead or cardboard cut-outs.

But if you can create a living, breathing hero, then you can also create a likable, empathetic heroine. They’re both characters. Story people. But their purposes are different. In a romance, you want the reader (usually female) to fall in love with the hero. But the reader must identify with the heroine, want to be her or her best friend.

Romance heroines should have several basic admirable traits, such as:

1. Intelligence: She should have common sense as well as book smarts. She doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist, of course, unless you want her to be. But she shouldn’t be TSTL (too stupid to live.) The reader needs to see her decisions, actions and motivations as smart choices.

2. Determination: The heroine should have a goal as your book opens and she should be determined to achieve that goal by the end of the story. She should be persistent in her quest and take advantage of every opportunity that will help her reach the goal.

3. Honesty: You probably want her to be honest and truthful, so the reader will respect her. If she must tell a lie, make sure she has a good reason and explain her motivation to the reader.

4. Firmness: She should stand up for her beliefs and defend them. Also, she shouldn’t be wishy-washy or easily swayed to another’s way of thinking.

5. Attractiveness: The heroine doesn’t need to be a beauty queen, but she must be attractive to the hero, obviously.

6. Loyalty: The heroine should be a loyal friend. Her friends or the hero should be able to trust her to keep their secrets or to help them when in need.

7. Strength: She needs to be able to stand toe to toe with that strong alpha hero. We're talking emotional strength here. We don't like weak heroines, do we?

8. Compassion: She should care about others and want to help when she can.

9. Imperfections: Perfect people are not very likable or interesting. So give your heroines some flaws and vulnerabilities.

There are more possible traits for wonderful and likable heroines, but these should give you a good start. I'll be covering heroines more in depth in my Instinctive Characterization: How to Create Sexy Heroes and the Strong Heroines Who Love Them class this month.

What about you? Do you enjoy creating heroines? What would you add to the above list?



Anonymous said...

Wonderful summary, Nicole. The only thing I would add is I like a heroine with a sense of humor.

Pat McDermott said...

I agree with Mary about a sense of humor. I also like to see heroines who aren't afraid to be ruthless if the situation warrants it (Scarlett O'Hara comes to mind). The guys shouldn't have all the fun!

Nicole North said...

Thanks, Mary and Pat! Absolutely, a sense of humor is a must. I can't believe I forgot that one. LOL Scarlett O'Hara is one of my favorite tough heroines.

Carly Carson said...

Excellent list. I agree about the sense of humor - very important. The one thing I don't like to see is a heroine who totally dominates the hero. I guess I'm kind of traditional, not that I want the TSTL, but I think they both need strengths.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I love your checklist for heroines and cannot wait to participate in your class. I am exhausted tonight so will probably start in the morning when my brain is fresh.

Nicole North said...

Thanks Paisley! I look forward to reading your exercises in class!