Welcome to Heroine Week! I'm so excited to finally share all the fabulous guest posts with all of you. I know you're dying to get this party started, so here is one of my favorite authors, Sarah Mayberry. Her heroines are admirable, approachable and relatable, and this post pretty much explains why.
The Care and Feeding of the Everyday Heroine
by Sarah Mayberry
Sometimes I think us contemporary romance authors have it tough, having to spin romance and lust and love out of the ordinary plain cotton of everyday life. Our heroines don’t get awesome swords or fighting skills or backstories that involved magic spells and paranormal powers. We don’t get to dress them up in hats and gloves and petticoats and send them out to roam the streets of London in a high perch phaeton with some gorgeous aristocrat at their side.
It’s a tough one. When I sit down to write my books, I try to turn the very ordinariness of the stories I’m telling into their strength. I want my readers to imagine that this story could happen to them - or perhaps someone they know. And a huge, huge part of that is creating a heroine who is relatable, human and likable.
As a reader, if I’m going to spend several hours living in the heroine’s shoes, I need to like her. She doesn’t need to be perfect - God forbid - but I need to understand her motivations and care for her. Otherwise it’s going to be pretty hard for me to get on board and get emotionally invested in her happiness.
As a writer, I know I’m going to spend months with the hero and heroine of any book I’m working on. Sometimes years. I definitely need to like and relate to these people! When I sit down to plot a story, I spend a lot of time thinking about what my hero and heroine want, where they come from and what they need, as opposed to what they want, because sometimes these can be two very different things and the difference can make for some interesting conflict.
I am a big fan of smart heroines. I also strive to make my heroines self aware - ie they know themselves, and they are honest with themselves. Sure, they might have a blind spot or two, issues that need addressing, but they hold themselves to a standard and try to deal open-handedly with the world. Another big thing for me is that my heroines own their sexuality and their desire. They don’t find desire shameful, and many of them are more than happy to take matters into their own hands, either by flying solo or being the aggressor when it comes to propositioning the hero. Sex is a huge part of romance and a successful relationship, and there is nothing more heady and powerful than those first crazy months of a love affair.
My heroines also are not constrained by traditional ideas of what women can and cannot do, career wise. I have written about a female boxer, a mechanic, a soldier, a lawyer. I have also written about single mums who are struggling to make ends meet and women struggling to come to terms with damaging past relationships. My heroines deal with the kinds of issues that me and my friends and the women I see around me deal with. Low-self-esteem, fear of being hurt again, absentee fathers, teenage trauma, abusive parents, grief and feelings of betrayal or loyalty to a friend or sibling.
These are not big stories. They are not epic. No one is going to save the world or prevent an uprising. But - hopefully - they are real and emotional and relatable, and by the last page, my ordinary, everyday heroine has become someone you’d like to have a good chin-wag and a bottle of champagne and a few laughs with. Because she’s interesting, and she’s real, and you care about her happiness.
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