Lately I’ve seen a recurring theme in some of the manuscripts I am reading. I have written about it before in the general terms, but specifics might be more helpful. Let us first start with a definition. The following description is taken from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/heroine
1. A woman noted for courage and daring action.
2. A woman noted for special achievement in a particular field.
3. The principal female character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.
4. A woman possessing heroic qualities
5. A woman idealized for possessing superior qualities
6. The main female character in a novel, play, film, etc.
Romance novels take a small aspect of a person’s life – the developing relationship between a man and a woman, and preserve a snapshot for others to read about.
By their nature, heroes and heroines must act with morality and ethics. This is because the reader must be endeared towards them, to identify with them, to think that in the same circumstances, the reader will act with the same character…courage, heroism and with a tough, inner sense of fair play.
Presenting your heroine in a good light is essential to that goal. The heroine can have negative emotions, but only for the right reasons. She cannot come across as holier-than-thou, prissy, or uppity. Although actions speak louder than words, much of the building of character takes place in the heroine’s point-of-view – her thinking.
If she thinks the hero is rude, crude and undignified, this speaks more about her assumptions than it does about the hero. She is judging, usually without basis, in the manuscripts I’ve been reading. I’ve read about heroines who think the hero is disgusting (author’s word), who thinks the hero needs a lesson with a 2 X 4 board (author’s words), and who think the hero should have some form of physical punishment (again, author’s words). These are not the thoughts of a heroine. They are judgments, and demeaning ones, at that. Physical violence in a Christian novel is not acceptable, even in thought, unless it happens to be in the villian’s POV, and then it needs to be handled delicately, too.
Another thing I am seeing pertaining to the heroine is smirking, glaring, hissing, and so on, directed at the hero. Using negative verb action to imply conflict isn’t heroic. Conflict is not simply acting mad at the hero. There should be a deep emotional context in which it is used, a life-changing instance in which all the heroine thought was right is turned upside down. Smirking at a less-than-stellar hero isn’t conflict – it smacks of making fun of him. The subliminal connotation then becomes different – a hero who can be made fun of comes across as a weak in some way, and not deserving of respect.
Use positive verbs, feelings and emotions to show your heroine’s moral and ethical dilemmas. She can act negatively, but it must be for a serious reason and there must be consequences to her actions. She can be a poor, lonely orphan forced to steal…but only because she has to feed younger siblings. She can be a glamorous movie star, faced with the horror of war, and being grossed out at the loss of life and limb, but she has to overcome to be an angel of mercy. A weak stomach and terrifying thoughts are okay, but with it needs to come strength of character and a resolve to change her situation in a proactive way. Do not use negative connotations carelessly. Craft your heroine with care.