After picking the brain of one of her heroes a few months ago, we invited author Tawny Weber to join us again here at RU. But this time, we asked her to talk about heroines instead. How does a writer craft a compelling, sympathetic, and relatable heroine? Especially if the writer and the heroine are nothing alike? Tawny’s going to give us the goods on how to create a heroine your readers will love. And she’s generously offered to give one commenter a book from her backlist.
Welcome back, Tawny!
I’ll admit it, the major hook for me in any romance is the hero. I love me a sexy hero. Alpha, beta. Nerd, Soldier. Teacher, biker, CEO. I love ‘em all. I read romances for the story, of course, but also to fall in love with the hero.
Or I should say, to fall in love—along with the heroine.
Because as hot and sexy and wonderful as the heroes are (and they definitely are, aren’t they!) it’s the heroine that most readers connect with the strongest. And it’s the heroine that we, as writers, need to focus on to draw readers in to the story.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten in writing was from my uber-awesome editor, Brenda Chin. She said that the heroine had to be relatable. The reader falls in love with the hero, but does so through the heroines’ eyes. She has to be empathetic—someone the reader can identify with in some way.
Does that mean the heroine has to be syrupy sweet perfection? Of course not. Does it mean she has to be a good girl, an average woman, a just-like-Jane-up-the-street character? Not at all.
She has to be relatable in some small way, so the reader can feel an affinity with her.
In my first book, DOUBLE DARE, Audra was a bad girl in every way. She was super-sex, with spiked black hair, wore leather and had multiple piercings. She was wild, ambitious and overly-confident in herself. She wasn’t the average woman at all. But I received so much mail about her from readers who said they didn’t think, when they started reading, that they’d understand or relate to her at all. But to their surprise, she was just like them. Not in any of the ways I’ve already described, but in her deepest fear. Her need to be accepted and fear of chasing her dreams at the expense of the status quo.
Because really, everything else is just surface. It’s the emotions that we capture our readers with. It’s the character’s emotional journey that they’re interested in.
And what if you, as the writer, are nothing like the heroine you’re writing? I can’t speak for all writers, but for myself, it’s all about finding that emotional connection. What does the heroine fear? What does she dream of? These are powerful motivations that both drive her, and that in the heroines I’ve written, I can relate to. In many ways, their fears and dreams are universal. They are the same fears and dreams that I have, that many of my friends have, that I’ve seen played out over and over again. It’s finding that emotional connection, as a writer and as a reader, which makes our heroines so wonderful to take that romantic journey with.
An example would be my current heroine, Rita Mae Cole, in A BABE IN TOYLAND, a novella in the December Harlequin Blaze MUST HAVE BEEN THE MISTLETOE anthology. She’s a bad girl (I have to say, I do love to write the bad girls, and even more those sexy bad boys). She’s making her way home for the holidays by selling misfit sex toys, has no problem seducing the guy her family has the hates for, and is so flighty she’s never been able to hold down a job for more than six months. None of this spells relatable, although it does make for some fun writing and reading *g*
It was her emotions, though, that readers can connect with, even if they’d could never-EVER imagine themselves selling the Tyrannosaurus Sex of dildos out of the back of a pickup truck to make enough money to buy their parent’s a gift.
Rita Mae is the youngest of three sisters, and has always felt like the biggest loser in her family. No matter what she’s done, one of her sisters already did it better. They are more talented, smarter, better. She loves her family, but she seriously wonders if someone made a mistake at the hospital, because she has none of their gifts. It’s her dedication to her family, and her fears and self-doubts, that make her relatable. And because the reader can connect with that, they are able to laugh about the way she packages fur-lined handcuffs and edible body paint into Christmas stockings instead of cringe.
Rita Mae’s story, A BABE IN TOYLAND, is out now in the MUST HAVE BEEN THE MISTLETOE Blaze anthology. I hope people will check it out and let me know what they think… did they relate to Rita? I’d also love to invite readers to stop by and check out the contest I’m holding to celebrate the holidays and the release of my novella, A BABE IN TOYLAND. I’ll be giving away the sweetest chocolate truffle ornament – it looks good enough to eat – and a copy of one of my books. Details are on my website contest page.
RU Crew, have you ever had a tough time writing about a particular heroine? What gives you fits about character development? Tawny will drop by to answer question. And don’t forget she’ll give away a book from her backlist to one lucky commenter!
Join us Friday when Harlequin Super Romance author Liz Talley will talk about taking your readers for an emotional roller coaster ride!
Tawny Weber is usually found dreaming up stories in her California home, surrounded by dogs, cats and kids. When she’s not writing hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze, she’s shopping for the perfect pair of boots or drooling over Johnny Depp pictures (when her husband isn’t looking, of course). In December 2010, her ninth Blaze, A BABE IN TOYLAND hits the bookshelves. Come by and visit her on the web at www.tawnyweber.com.
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for August 23-27, 2010: Edie Ramer, Laurie London, Tawny Weber & Laurie Schnebly Campbell
- What Makes a Great Blaze Hero: The Four S’s
- What If and Why? by Tawny Weber
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for Dec 6-10: C.J. Redwine, Laurie London, Tawny Weber, Liz Talley
- An Interview with Tawny Weber’s Latest Hero