Writing Wrongs

February 18, 2006

So I was musing in my morning pages the other day about bland heroines and wrote the phrase:

. . . how heroines are betrayed in fiction . . .

Oops. Pardon my Freudian slip there. I mean portrayed, how theyíre portrayed in fiction. Thereís been some discussion of this in the blogsphere about why this happens and how itís supposedly driven by the readerís need to identify with the heroine.

Iím not sure thatís it. I think sometimes, especially in romance, the heroine is a placeholder for the reader. Sheís made so relentlessly bland as either not to offend the most delicate sensibilities or so the reader can slip into her place and be the heroine the hunky alpha male du jour is courting.

Except. What happens is in this quest to not offend is the heroine is rendered completely bland. She has no real opinions, no real personality. She might have quirks. She might be cute, in the pat-on-the-head sense of the word. Funny thing is, her polar opposite, the so-called ďkick-assĒ heroine is almost as bland, despite the bitch = strength paradigm that if it went away tomorrow, I would not mourn its departure from the world of fiction--or the world in general.

Whatís interesting in judging the Young Adult category of the Golden Heart this year is all these young heroines have voice. They have personality. They have opinions, that gosh, might not match mine. In previous years, when Iíve judged either single title or romantic suspense (I enter mainstream, so I canít judge that category), the litany of bland heroines has been beyond painful.

Even though some of the YA entries have . . . plot issues, each has been a fairly enjoyable read, for the mere fact the heroines come across as teens who might actually exist. I think thatís part of it. Thereís that whole pressure of women to be nice (blech), to not rock whatever boat they happen to be in, to not offend anyone, and it gets carried over into fiction, to the extreme, that if you have a heroine who takes one misstep, sheís judged, harshly.

In the end, that makes her into someone I certainly donít want to read about, never mind identify with. But Iím beginning to suspect Iím in the minority here and itís why, while I love me some love stories, I end up reading mainstream, historical, literary.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 7:45 a.m.