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.
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.
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 … “
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
DEAD 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 – Smashwords
Enter this Goodreads giveaway to win copies of Dead Men Play The Game!
- Bump in the Night by Jacqui Jacoby
- Boundaries of Imagination by Jacqui Jacoby
- Weekly Lecture Schedule – July 6th to July 10th
- K.M. Fawcett presents: Tips for Writing Fight Scenes
- Chasing a Character to Find the Plot by Adite Banerjie