Embracing my Heroine

As Kaye and I sat and chatted the other day instead of writing a well-informed and researched post, we discussed our currents WIPs. (Shocking, I know—talking about something productive!)

I referred to my main character as my heroine, then stopped myself, saying I hate that word, I always feel like I am saying heroin, and my main character is not a drug. We went on to list all of the other words we must in the place of heroine (protagonist, MC, Queen of my novel). But as I stayed up all night unable to sleep, my mind wandered back to that conversation, and I realized that a great main character is, in a way, like a drug.

Now, I in no way mean to trivialize drug addiction, but think about it. If a book has a great MC, you are drawn into the story to the point that you can tune out the world. A great character can make or break a book. I tend to become so invested in a great character I tune out the world around me. I lose track of time, of my surroundings. I have been in a doctor’s office and missed my name being called multiple times because I was so engrossed in a book. I have had my husband try to have entire conversations with me and not processed a thing because my mind wasn’t there. (He has learned to recognize these times, and knows that, although I am talking, I have no idea what I am saying, and won’t remember a word later.)

A book will not suck someone in to that extent, however, without a great MC. We like to be invested in the characters in the books we read. If we aren’t, we won’t relate to the story line. It doesn’t matter if the MC is an alien zombie with purple skin and blue hair (now you see why I don’t write paranormal or sci-fi). If there isn’t something we, as readers, can relate to, we likely won’t be as invested in the story.

Here’s an example. I recently read a series by one of my favorite authors, a heroine in her own right. I love reading romance series because you get to see the original characters and relationships develop much further than you typically do in a romance. In this particular series, there were four books, with each one having a different MC. The first book was amazing—loved the MC. The second two were great, too. Loved the characters, as well as seeing their interaction with the first. The last book was boring. There was no conflict, the MC was flat. (To be honest, I thought the character had the most potential, too.) Still, I read it. Why? For those brief glimpses of the characters from the previous books. I couldn’t get enough. And it was worth it.

In other words, character development is key. As writers, we need to strive to make characters that are almost addicting, almost drug-like. So while I am still not a huge fan of the term heroine, I realize that it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if someone told me one of my characters was drug-like. A great book should be addicting, and there are very few great novels without great MCs.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you make your characters addicting? Do you agree that a great MC is key to a great book, or have you loved a book where you hated the MC? I am always looking for more to read. Do you have any suggestions for books with amazing MCs?

About Susi Borath

Susi Borath finds time to write between freelance marketing jobs, minor league baseball games, creating new cookie recipes, and juggling more laundry than any two people should be able to produce. You can find more about her at http://susiborath.com or follow @susiborath on Twitter.
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6 Responses to Embracing my Heroine

  1. 2blu2btru says:

    I think the MC has to evoke strong emotion. There have been books where I haven’t liked the MC, but they definitely weren’t romances. It’s like a bad character in a movie or on a TV series. You know it’s going to get good with them around, but you hate them and what they do. It’s that strong emotion where you just have to know what their going to do next.

    I recently finished three very different books: Bridget Jones Diary: Edge of Reason; The Secret History, and; Stephen King’s IT. Bridget is one of the best MCs ever (Anne of Green Gables aside) because her voice is so genuine and she’s so relatable in a cringe-worthy way. The Secret History picked a good MC to narrate for what it was doing, but it took forever for me to get warmed up to him, and I ended up reading for another character altogether. I know the main character of IT, if you have to pick one, is supposed to be Bill Denborough, but I liked Ritchie and Mike the best.

    With my own writing, I try to make the MC the down to Earth, relatable one, which sometimes means that support characters can outshine him/her in the beginning. I think, though, if you have a good story that is good enough for people to stick with long enough for the heroine to grow on you, it can work. It’s a fine line between making a character people can’t get enough of and making them someone people can’t wait to walk away from. I like my MCs to be the woman (or man) at the party who isn’t holding court, but who has one or two individuals undivided attention, without even trying to keep it.

    Sorry for the long response (this is why I write, so no one has to hear my opinions on EVERYTHING, ;-)).

  2. Kaye Peters says:

    Long responses are just fine in my book!

    There have been books that I did not like heroine in the beginning but by the end of the novel I was cheering for her. To me, that’s the sign of a talented writer.

    For books that I really like the characters, not just the main ones, become real people to me. Its sad and pathetic and it says a lot about my life in general, but I can’t stop it. You spend hours with these characters and get to know them on such an intimate level, how can you not feel for them? There are some series out there where I get so involved when Sparky hears me talk about them he honestly thinks that I’m talking about real people.

    That’s my goal, as I’m sure its every writer’s goal. To give life to a character so embedded in the ways of human nature that he or she is accessible by the masses. Whether you hate them or love them you can’t stop reading about them.

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