by Meghan Conrad
Everyone wants--or should want, anyhow--their heroes and heroines to be likable. Sometimes it seems like authors go too far, trying so hard to make someone likable and sympathetic that it has the opposite effect. Here are some ways to tell that you might be writing a heroine who's a bit too perfect.
She has no flaws. "Too intellectual" isn't a flaw, by the way. It's a positive thing (she's smart and well read) masquerading as a flaw, presumably because some people are threatened by smart women.
Despite not having any training, she's as good at the hero's job as he is--if not better.
She inspires unwavering love and loyalty from people who've known her for less than five minutes. If the people around her are willing to put themselves at risk for her sake, there better be a damn good reason. (Potential reasons: She can indisputably prove that she's the second coming of Christ, or...I can't think of another one, actually.)
Despite the fact that it's mentioned repeatedly that she is unaware of and doesn't care about her appearance, she's consistently described as the most incandescently beautiful woman in the room. This is a double whammy of too good to be trueness: not only is she completely unaware of how attractive she is, she doesn't have to try at all to be stunningly gorgeous.
Hand in hand with the last one, we have the heroine who's always perfectly dressed and accessorized. Her nails are color coordinated with her outfit, and her socks always match. She never gets a grass stain on her pants while she's fighting evil; she never breaks one of her implausibly high heels as she runs desperately from her stalker. I can get dirty just walking out my front door, and my socks never match. It can't be just me.
She overcomes nearly impossible odds--for everything. She's an orphan, she was horribly abused, she was homeless, and she also lost her five-year-old daughter in a car accident...and she's still optimistic, good natured and kind.
The phrase "men want her and women want to be her" is used in reference to her. That woman exists, but she's nobody that I'd want to be friends with, that's for sure. You want people to sympathize with your character, not hate her.
Speaking of someone we love to hate, remember that while there are some women who eat whatever they want, don't exercise, and are naturally a size two with not an ounce of cellulite, there are a lot more who are naturally a size twelve or twenty-two. Enough impossibly tiny waists, already!
There's no polite way to say this, but here goes: her bodily functions should not be charming. Bodies can be sort of gross. If everyone sighs adoringly every time your heroine belches, she's probably crossed the line.
**Thanks to Kelli Collins and Jaime Kurp for their assistance with this post.
Friday, April 17, 2009
by Meghan Conrad