by Maria Geraci
When I first started writing and getting my work critiqued, I noticed a pattern among the comments.
“This woman is too stupid to live.”
“Would she really do that?”
“This kind of makes her… unsympathetic.”
In my novels, my female protagonist is the only voice heard on the page. If she’s not someone the reader cares about, then they aren’t going to care about the story. Writing “nice” girls might make a reader feel sympathetic, but they can also make for boring characters. And an overly aggressive heroine who your audience wants brought down a notch or two, isn’t the answer either.
So how did I learn to write a character that the reader will identify with and want to read about and root for till the end?
Everything I learned about writing strong, yet vulnerable female characters I got from reading and watching Gone with the Wind. In between those pages and on the screen is a veritable wealth of wisdom. Like...
Never make your heroine so beautiful that she stops traffic (or draws dozens of beaus to her side at the country picnic).
Give your heroine someone to love/care about other than herself. A reckless father or a decaying mansion will do. Readers love characters with passion.
When someone breaks into the house, have her get a gun. Or a fireplace poker.
Anyone who can look at curtains and sees a cocktail dress, deserves her own book.
Giving birth while a city is burning, being bombed, or without an epidural, makes you a kick ass heroine. Do write those.
Never write a male character named Ashley and expect your audience to buy that he could ever be the hero.
And finally, don't let your heroine go after her best friend's guy. That's kind of unforgivable. Unless you're Emily Giffin. Then you can somehow manage to pull this off and make the book into a NY Times best seller.
Maria Geraci is the author of fun, romantic women's fiction. Her third novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, comes out December, 2010. Visit her website at http://www.mariageraci.com/.