Posted On July 8, 2015 by Print This Post

Jacqui Jacoby presents: Heroines Can Save Themselves

Please welcome self-defense guru and author Jacqui Jacoby who shares her insight on creating tough and savvy heroines. 

Great to have you with us, Jacqui!


I was sixteen when I was introduced to “self-defense” and began a lifelong road that has kept me safe. I took class after class through college and private organizations. Eventually, I escalated into martial arts. I never got my black belt due to health reasons, but really, please don’t sneak up on me.

There was an incident that happened while I was at UCLA. A girl was on the jogging path when a car with four guys pulled up beside her, aimed a gun and told her to get in. She told them to “F*** off” and went back to jogging.

They shot her in the back, hitting her shoulder and then sped away.

True story.

And a really good one because, yeah, she was shot. She was also alive because I can guarantee you that four guys in a car with gun demanding you get in, are not taking you on a shopping spree on Rodeo.

She would have died. Horribly.

Self-defense is an ingrained part of who I am. And though I have carried knives, the only person I ever used one on was an Jacqui JacobyAmazon box where it slipped and I had to get nine stitches.

Ninety percent of self-defense whether it is me at a Safeway parking lot at 10:00p.m. or my heroine, is presentation. “Do I look like a target to you? Really? You think so? Let’s see …”

Head up, no slouch, gaze scanning cars, between cars. Walk with confidence because that is scary as hell to anyone watching you.

You do not want to look like potential victim. You are aware of every person around you, you know where their hands are because hands hold things like weapons.

I don’t want to become a statistic. I know my heroine doesn’t either. The hero, it’s generally a given they can kick ass. But the heroine…

…that’s where you got me. I write heroines who just might take out the villain while the hero is stuck in traffic.

There is an art to writing this kind of book because a lot of people are intimated by touch chicks. Tough chick does not mean bitch. That is a complete fallacy. And she doesn’t have to be a cop, or CIA.

         A tough chick heroine is a woman who is willing to do anything necessary to protect the people she loves, even kill or die for them.

Ellen Ripley, in the Aliens film, is by far my favorite touch chick. Maybe you have seen or not. But in it (spoiler) she was falling in love with Hicks. She had defiantly already adopted the little Newt as her own. And the three of them, they painted this incredible picture of what they would do for one another to survive.

Having a reason to fight is huge in becoming tough.

Having a man beside you who is willing to be second chair, that is equally as important. There can’t be an arrogance in him arriving five minutes after the villain is dead to say “I was going to do that.” No, he needs to be there for her, for what she just went through, because even a tough chick can use the bathroom to throw-up after putting four into a guy’s chest.

Villains are an equally important component to the novel.

They have to have motive which is going to challenge the hero and heroine. In reality, one hundred percent of villains, even in crimes we don’t understand, have a reason, even if it’s only in their mind. Bank robberies: money; rapist: power; serial killers: usually more power.

You have to have motivation behind what these bad guys are doing so the heroine has an adversary worth fighting.

And my villain in the upcoming DEAD MEN SEAL THE DEAL? It’s a she out with specific plans and willing to kill everything in her path to get it. Gender of the evil characters can go either way as long as they are twisted and pose a threat to the cast.

The fighting they will do, whether it is with the heroine or with the hero, has to show reality. Are there three hands on her body? Or just the usual two? Choreographing a fight scene is very much like choreographing a sex scene, with different results.

You need to be aware as the writer of what you are saying: what fist hits what cheek? What kick landed where? If you are using a weapon (gun, knife, spray bottle of Pam) is it aimed in the right direction to hit the right spot (Pam in eyes –works). My hero was left handed in my last book. Made a difference in positioning weapon use.

You don’t have to be especially detailed either as long as you convey the feel for the situation and the destruction your characters are creating.

                  “Jason stood by on a hair trigger. The command came down and he moved. Two swipes of the knife with his body moving in fluid motion and the other guy hit the ground, clutching his throat.” ~DEAD MEN PLAY THE GAME, pg. 233

Do not have the heroine go for the kitchen knife. Besides being cliché, it doesn’t work. He will know she is on her way and he will take it from her. And unless she’s had four years of knife defense, there isn’t a whole lot she can do with it.

Almost all my characters are trained in guns as they are cops or spies. I don’t actually care for guns and do not keep them in my house so that is never a way I would go. I would probably go for a three finger punch to the throat. Takes little strength but you have to get close for it and close to the scary bad guy, even for the heroine.

There was a time a few decades back where heroines were meeker. I remember one book in the eighties where the hero believed the rumors about the heroine so he raped her. At the end of book he said “About what I did …” and she waved her hand and said “Forget about it … “

Ah huh.

My response on all accounts would have different. And a heroine I write…yeah. So would hers.

It’s not hard to write a tough heroine. If you take into account her character, her hero and what they are striving for. Give a woman a child, put that child in danger and mother bears have nothing on us.

To get more information on this subject do net searches on techniques and weapons. Call a local gun person (store/range) and talk to someone. Take a self-defense class from a reputable source…and I mean that as a writer and a person. Everyone should have a basic knowledge of self-defense. Consider it an investment in your future.

Your heroine is in bed late at night. She hears a window break in the living room. She is now down to seconds before she finds out why. What does she do?


Award-winning author, Jacqui Jacoby lives and writes in the beauty of Northern Arizona. She is the owner of Body Count Productions, Inc, which keeps her career moving. Currently adjusting to being an empty nester with her first grandchild to draw her pictures, Jacqui is a self-defense hobbyist. Having studied martial arts for numerous years, she retired in 2006 from the sport, yet still brings the strength she learned from the discipline to her characters. She is a working writer, whose career includes writing books, teaching online and live workshops and penning short nonfiction. Website  Blog  Twitter  Facebook


deadmen_game_amazonDEAD MEN PLAY THE GAME – For a hundred years, Ian Stuart has fought the monster controlling his life. Living as a human among humans, he wants to fill the void that has followed him from one empty, lonely relationship to another other. Ashley Barrow is working the worst murder case in Davenport, Oregon’s history. She needs a drink to forget the detailed images in her mind. When she walks into Ian’s pub, Ian knows their lives are about to change.

Also by Jacqui Jacoby: With a Vengeance

Coming Soon: Dead Men Play The Game – Magic Man – Dead Men Seal the Deal – Dead Men Feel the Heat – Dead Men Heal Slowly

Available on Amazon – iBookStore – B&N – Kobo – Amazon UK – 
Amazon Aus – 

Enter this Goodreads giveaway to win copies of Dead Men Play The Game!

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17 Responses to “Jacqui Jacoby presents: Heroines Can Save Themselves”

  1. Discussion Question: A week or so ago in my state, and I had not heard this when I wrote the question, a woman who worked for the PD–she was not a cop, but another division– she heard an intruder in her house in the middle of the night. She grabbed her phone, locked herself in the bathroom and called 911. While on the phone, the intruder kicked in the bathroom door and shot her dead. The police heard the whole thing. We need to find another solution.

    Posted by Jacqui Jacoby | July 8, 2015, 1:18 pm
    • The solution is to shoot the intruder.

      I’ve been a self-defense and firearms instructor for 21 years. The reality is that against an armed or stronger opponent, strength based self-defense techniques are a chimera, barring a freakishly unlikely streak of luck.

      And it’s not about shooting the intruder in the leg or the arm. It’s about shooting the intruder center mass, many times, until he/she/it ceases to be a threat. If the intruder dies, well, they forfeited their life when they attacked you.

      The one question everyone, regardless of gender needs to ask is “Is my life more valuable than either the cost of a gun or my attacker’s life.”

      Hint: There’s only one right answer.

      Posted by Adam Firestone | July 9, 2015, 7:08 am
  2. Great tips and advice. Thanks for sharing Jacqui, I’m making notes.

    Congratulations on the release!

    Posted by Kelly Steel | July 8, 2015, 5:06 pm
  3. This is excellent. I cannot stand to read about weepy, willowy women. I’d like to think I’d stand up (especially when my loved ones are threatened) and this is the type of woman I like to read and like to write. I still have dreams of being “Ripley.” 🙂

    Posted by Karen R. Sanderson | July 8, 2015, 5:17 pm
  4. Great post! I have a question – I notice you have long hair. I remember reading a blog some time ago where one of the commenters said no self-aware heroine would have long hair because it makes women vulnerable to baddies. Prior to that, I had never looked on long hair as a potential weapon against a heroine, but I guess in real life it happens fairly often. Your thoughts?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | July 8, 2015, 7:50 pm
    • There was an article that circulated somewhere like ten years ago, maybe more. It had a list of what cons inside said they went for and it listed women with pony tails. This came up in my martial arts class with my lead instructor who was not only a fifth degree, but lead criminal detective on the police force. He said it was a complete fallacy. Baddies might have a type but it wasn’t narrowed like that. They had some trigger, though maybe some did like long hair. It’s just not reason to cut it off. And good catch on mine. ^,,^

      Posted by Jacqui Jacoby | July 9, 2015, 12:05 am
    • There was an article which circulated somewhere like ten years ago, maybe more. It had a list of what cons inside said they went for and it listed women with pony tails. This came up in my martial arts class with my lead instructor who was not only a fifth degree, but lead criminal detective on the police force. He said it was a complete fallacy. Baddies might have a type but it wasn’t narrowed like that. They had some trigger, though maybe some did like long hair. It’s just not reason to cut it off. And good catch on mine. ^,,^

      Posted by Jacqui Jacoby | July 9, 2015, 12:06 am
  5. What a great post!

    I lived in DC for a while, and never had ANYthing happen to me while walking back to the Metro at 11pm or whatever. I was 21 and looked a lot more appealing than I do now. 🙂 But I had that determined, destination-locked stride and attitude, and everyone always said I projected “don’t mess with me.”

    Your discussion question: I’d go out the bedroom window.

    Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | July 8, 2015, 8:57 pm
    • That’s the way to walk now and then. I’m not anywhere near in as good a shape as I have had health issues, but really, no sneaking. ^,,^

      Window is a good start. With the cell phone. And we started keeping cell phones by our beds after that horrific murder in CT where they took the family out. Land lines had been cut. Can’t cut a line on a cell phone.

      And I always sleep with my bedroom door locked. It’s not much, but those five seconds they realize and have to deal with, are seconds I just picked up. My master instructor told me that.

      Bedroom window, bathroom window. Get out of the house NOW. If’s a two story, either invest in a fire ladder which will take time to unroll, or just jump. One broken ankle is not that much different than a bullet in the back. You’re still alive. Hide. Call 911. Get to a neighbor. Hell, toss a brick threw the neighbor’s window. Offer to pay for it latter. You can do that cuz you lived. ^,,^

      Posted by Jacqui Jacoby | July 9, 2015, 12:13 am
  6. “Get out of the house NOW.”

    Absolutely not. Your house is a place of safety and sanctuary. It’s also a place where you have the tactical advantage. On the street, you’re at the attacker’s mercy.

    It’s an uncomfortable truth, but a truth nonetheless: The only way to reliably stop a violent attacker – rapidly – is to inflict massive pain and damage as rapidly as possible. Unless you’re Chuck Norris, attitude, speed and martial arts will generally get you dead – in a hurry.

    Lock your door. Get behind your bed. Call the police on your cell phone. And empty your magazine into the attacker’s chest.

    Posted by Adam Firestone | July 9, 2015, 7:13 am
  7. Not quite sure how to respond to this one and I am not quite where you base your opinion on, your background. Mine actually goes back to 1980.

    No, might be your house, doesn’t prove safety or tactical advantage. The entire fact one or more people are now in it proves this. It just feels safe because it’s what you know and there is this little voice in your head saying “My house, has to be safe.”

    Locking a door? What kind a door? Bank vault? Because a standard bedroom door can be broken in in one kick with little strength.

    And what “tactical advantage”? Unless you have a background in defense, what are you going to do? What is the plan and what is the weapon of choice? How are you planning to “inflict massive pain and damage” if you happen to be a woman of 5’4″ and 110 pounds when two guys weighing over 200 are now in your bedroom?

    Go back and read the first post. This happened like a week ago in my state. Someone did exactly what you suggested and now she is dead.

    Posted by Jacqui Jacoby | July 9, 2015, 9:09 am
    • Background? See the post at the beginning of the thread. I’ve been a personal defense and firearms instructor for 21 years.

      Ideally the weapon of choice is a controllable, high capacity repeating carbine. Two 200 pound guys should make for 400 pounds of carrion, minus the blood loss.

      So unless the victim shot her attackers, she did NOT do as I suggested.

      Advocating self defense in a life or death situation without advocating the use of firearms is advocating suicide.

      Posted by Adam Firestone | July 9, 2015, 9:20 am
  8. Your training is impressive. And I appreciate your opinion as everyone has one.

    I however do not advocate gun use in any form outside of movies or fiction.

    I don’t keep one, which is stated in the article. And I will not get into pro/con gun debate here.

    My opinions stand, as a woman studying self defense for … how many years is that? (I don’t do math), as a martial artist who studied knife defense, sword fighting and the wife of a third degree black belt and two third degree kids.

    We take another approach in protecting ourselves. And we say run and hide until you get help is a perfectly legitimate way to go if that is the only option open to you.

    Thank you for checking in.

    Posted by Jacqui Jacoby | July 9, 2015, 12:32 pm
  9. Evening Jacqui..

    I took a class from you once on writing a strong woman…even watched the Alien movies to get a feel for Ripley.

    I think back in the 70’s when I first started reading romance, the heroines were willowy and weepy..while I adore Kathleen Woodiwiss books, her heroines were young virgins who knew nothing about men or life.

    Nowadays we have much stronger heroines, even in historicals. Whether they defend themselves with a gun or their stiletto, having self-confidence is the name of the game.

    It’s been nice to see the heroine’s evolution over the decades…instead of being pulled along by the hero willy nilly, she now walks beside (or sometimes in front) of him.

    Nice post!



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | July 9, 2015, 11:12 pm
    • Wow … that’s cool. You remember. I used Poltergeist, too. Mom went back in that house to get her kids. I think. With RWA’s FF&P

      It is sorta funny, though, when Aliens comes up in a conversation.

      “Did you know that was a romance film?”

      Not easy to convince. LOL

      Posted by Jacqui Jacoby | July 10, 2015, 3:06 pm

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