Dark heroines. . .

I love a dark heroine with spunk. Smarty-pants attitude and tough, yet a tad broken. Some of the characters I’ve written like that haven’t worked out, though. My crit partners are like, “I don’t like her.”

There’s this thing about writing a character that’s tough as nails, yet someone the reader can still like—at least a little—until the character undergoes some changes.

I love disliking the heroine in the beginning. As long as I have just a tiny-little-spark of potential or vulnerability. Doesn’t have to be much, though, because I know that the tougher they are in the beginning, the more change they’ll go through during the novel.

And that’s the part I love.

The dark heroines have the most potential to change. Because, like my writing shows, I believe the light will always break through the darkness. And with the love of a great hero helping it along…YUMMY…that just makes the story even better!!

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So, what kind of heroine do you like?

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About Lynn Rush

New York Times/USA Today bestselling author, chocolate addict & ultra runner. Agent: Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency
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13 Responses to Dark heroines. . .

  1. Thanks for your post, Lynn. I hope I don’t get kicked off the blog, but when it comes to dark heroines, you and I will have to agree to disagree.

    No, I don’t care for them. If I dislike a heroine, if she’s well and truly nasty, I can’t identify with her, or relate to her in any manner. And nowadays, dark heroines can be very nasty indeed.

    One of the aspects of today’s romance fiction that I find incomprehensible is the notion that any character can be redeemed. Authors create the cruelest, most power-hungry, most vengeance-driven heroes and heroines. To my mind, such characters should serve only as villains.

    Yet we readers are expected to identify with this kind of heroine and fall in love (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) with this kind of hero. And through their experiences, principally their growing relationship with each other, we’re told they reform, become good guys and girls.

    Sorry, I’m not buying it. In real life, the damned stay damned. Rarely if ever do they change—for the better, that is.

    Here in the real world, a control freak doesn’t turn into a sweet, loving soul by being forced into a volatile love-hate relationship with another control freak. Therefore I can’t and won’t believe this when I read it in fiction. And I don’t enjoy it any more than I believe it.

    As for the idea that it’s okay for a protagonist to be despicable at first, because we readers will keep reading and patiently wait for him or her to become likable, if not lovable—well, I suppose many readers will do just that. But I’m not one of them.

    Yes, I know how popular romances of this sort are. And they’re easier to write than those in which both focal characters are truly able to give love and worthy to receive it. But I’m just not interested. And I won’t be missed!

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  2. Postscript: I just realized that in describing what I don’t like in a heroine, I forgot to answer your question about what I DO like. I dig a wide variety of heroines—obviously not all types, but still quite a few. However, they all have one trait in common. It’s my ONLY requirement for a romance heroine.

    She should be deeply involved in a situation that intrigues and fascinates me. And she should deal with it in a way I can relate to.

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  3. danicaavet says:

    I’m with you, Lynn. I like a darker heroine who has the chance for redemption. That’s the selling point though, her change from dark to not-so-dark has to be logical and progressive. It can’t just be bam, I see the light! She has to take baby steps and she has to fall back sometimes so the reader can really see the struggle. That’s what makes an awesome dark heroine redeemable!

    Great post!

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  4. jeff7salter says:

    Lynn, I also like protagonists with spunk. And I don’t need them to be sugary-sweet ‘likeable’ at first. [One of my early beta readers told me my protagonist was not “likeable”. My reaction was: “You dont’ know her as well as I do.” Ha.]
    This ‘likeability’ issue has generated some pretty hostile responses from contest judges, who (based on the 1st 20 pps usually) have ripped me to shreds for having an “un-likeable” heroine. They don’t allow for the possibility that my protagonist might encounter events or circumstances — or a cool guy — who could modify her perspective, mature, soften some rough edges, etc. And those judges particularly rankled me because in some of those contests I also had a synopsis which clearly covered this arc of character development.
    Oh well, don’t get me started on contests. If the entire book was SUPPOSED to be squeezed into 20 pps, I would have written a short story instead!
    Sheesh.
    For heroines –or heroes — it’s okay with me if they’re not perfectly likeable. In real life there are not too many humans who are without significant flaws. But nonetheless I choose to enjoy their company — or work alongside them — or tolerate them … whatever.
    Provocative post, Lynn.

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  5. Love it Lynn- I could almost say “ditto” to your post and leave it at that but I’ll add that I have some characters like that as well and to echo Jeff, contest judges (and agents that ask for 5 pages) don’t seem to like that. AND let me also add that I agree with Jeff about the whole book can’t be told in 20 pages and that’s why I quit entering contests! LOL!

    Another great post this week.

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