Like so many strong female characters, young and old, the heroine, Tris, embodies many characteristics I love to read about. She’s ingenious, determined, and courageous. She’s also only sixteen.
So far, she’s been beat-up, dangled over a cliff and nearly plunged to her death, shot more than once, witnessed both parents being killed, had to shoot a dear friend, and has been poked, prodded, and experimented on by the enemy.
She’s one tough cookie.
While my sons and I were having coffee on the porch yesterday morning, I brought up the fact that over the years, I’ve read a lot of similar characters, many your average, everyday girl (or woman) thrown into unusual and very challenging circumstances. Some of the characters were completely unbelievable, because they had no experiences, training, or life circumstances that prepared them for all the physical, mental, and emotional trials they went through.
I don’t need them to be trained operatives like the heroines in most of my romantic suspense novels, but I do appreciate it when a character who digs deep for that precious combination of ingenuity, determinedness, and courage, finds it because they went through some trial or tribulation in their past that prepared them for what they’re going through now.
And then my son Sam said, “But Mom, as an author you know why most stories take an average character and make them superhuman, believable or not.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because we all want to believe that we—the nobodies of the world with absolutely no skills—could get beat up, take a bullet, and keep going in order to save the world.”
“Besides,” he added. “It’s fiction.”
He’s right. On both counts. Many of us read so we can temporarily become the hero or heroine and save the world. And it IS fiction.
Yet, if the heroine is your average girl-next-door type, I’d like to know that the reason she fights back and nails the bad guy in the kidney with her elbow is because she had three older brothers who teased her and taught her how to fight. Or she took a self-defense class after she was mugged. Or, like Tris in Divergent, she picked the badass Dauntless faction and went through an initiation that taught her how to fight, shoot a gun, and wield a knife. The Dauntless taught her how to think like a fighter and act like one.
Bianca, the heroine in my work in progress (DEADLY FORCE) is an analyst for the NSA. She’s not an undercover operative or a field agent with tactical skills, so when an assassin comes after her, she doesn’t have a lot of choice but to seek help from someone who does have those skills and knows the art of evasion and survival.
But she’s no meek damsel in distress. She has a near-perfect memory, and while that would be a blessing for many of us and it helps her be an excellent analyst, it’s also a burden. She’s never been normal and had a tough childhood that taught her to be clever and resourceful when it came to survival. And even though she’s more likely to hit you with her laptop than shoot you, she does know how to use a gun and she’s determined to bring the bad guys to justice.
This month, Adrienne Giordano and I are releasing the second book in our Justice Team series, CHEATING JUSTICE. The heroine in this story is a trained sniper for the FBI. As you can imagine, she has some skills. While she does get beat up and shot at in the story, her biggest problem isn’t the bad guy, actually. It’s the hero. If you’d like to know more about Caroline and Mitch, hop over to the Justice Team Series FB page for the cover reveal today.
So tell me, readers, what do YOU like in a strong heroine? What qualities must she possess? What experiences from her past make her current drive to overcome her situation believable?
Or is it JUST FICTION and you don’t really care?