The Intellligent and Indecent Heroine

Well, okay, not indecent necessarily.

Years ago I was helping a friend of mine with a paper for a class in grad school. The paper happened to be on romance novels, and the elements they needed to be successful. My friend wrote that they needed an “intelligent and indecent heroine.”

My friend is dyslexic. After we got over laughing, she told me she’d meant independent. And that made sense. (And indecent can certainly help in romantic and/or erotic literature.)

This has become one of my gospel rules. I do not enjoy stories where the heroine (or hero, for that matter) is a wuss. She does not have to be a brassy ball-buster. I’ve noted in a few forums that a strong woman can be fun and pleasant, and a quiet one can have surprising strength. Nor does she have to always be right.

In a story I wrote long ago — even before I knew my friend — Cost of Loyalty, I tried that. The heroine, Selina, stands up for a man she doesn’t even know.

Damian has died and found himself at the crossroads of the afterlife. After he finds out his best friend has been destined for Hell, he demands to go with him, but is met with resistance by the “good guys.” Selina is appalled.

To Selina, this was the ultimate horror. To find out that there was a time when the sacrifices didn’t matter anymore, after those that she had seen people make, nearly made her ill. Suppose it stopped before Transition? How long had people been leading good lives after it no longer made a difference?

“How can you?” Her voice was choked with fury as she directed the accusation toward the Angel. She stalked from the door to Purgatory and stood facing him. “How can you?”

“I do not understand,” said the Angel.

“This man,” she pointed to Damian, “has offered to sacrifice his chance of Heaven to stay with his friend. He has put his friend’s happiness before his own salvation. For this, you offer him suffering and damnation? You punish his effort instead of rewarding it? Is it true that no good deed goes unpunished?” Her green eyes sparkled in the otherworldly illumination of Transition.

She then opts to go with him, into the unknown of purgatory.
In Light and the Darkness, Erica Wellstone is a witch with little power who faces down a vampire.

Erica sat, tense and stiff in a small chair, and was irritated because she knew this was the effect he intended. Knowing it didn’t help her relax, though. She knew she was never safe; Jordan Castle was a vampire and she was a witch with little useful power. Certainly nothing she could use to attack, or even defend herself. So, she thought, she would have to talk to him, make the painting, and then leave. It was the only way.

I think it’s far more satisfying to write a character like this. To write a woman who’s constantly in peril, crying for rescue, or just crying, would annoy both the writer and the reader.

So I will continue to write my intelligent and indecent independent heroines.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Here here!

    Reply

  2. […] Jura struggles with her insecurities and then decides to deal with them, making her more of the independent heroine I’ve written about […]

    Reply

  3. […] of mine about romance novels and came away more informed than I had been, and the idea of the strong heroine stayed with […]

    Reply

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