Let’s talk heroes and heroines, from a reader’s perspective. After all, this is where I started: reading and lots of it! I learnt a long time ago that literature is subjective and not everyone is going to think the same as you. It’s both a little frustrating but also pretty fantastic. I would love to have people arguing over my work, it would make me feel like I’ve made it – ha! Writing essays at school, college and university could literally make me tear my hair out with irritation because if your tutor didn’t agree with you, those bastards had the power to mark you harshly. Not to mention you had to study what they liked so you were already at a disadvantage if you didn’t feel the same passion that they did. My apologies to all you budding poets out there, but I’m not an overly big fan. I enjoy a bit of Ogden Nash, some Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, but I’m otherwise indifferent to it.
Let me go off a tangent for a moment, Lewis Carroll will forever bring up bitter memories of being sat in a Year 9 English lesson that was reserved for reading a book from home for the full hour (code for, ‘what an easy lesson without the need for planning!’) Anyway, bitchiness aside (for now), I was reading Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, a text my mother had to study for her English degree because of its use of similes, metaphors, old-English language and the fact that its nonsensical and fanciful style has been influential to many writers for decades. I was most definitely the odd one out when I looked all around me to see teeny-bopper books designed to entice adolescents of my age, but no one seemed to take much notice. That is until Miss Whatever-Her-Name-Was came up and announced to the entire class that my book was far too young for me, and should I not be reading something a little more advanced?! Now, I remained quiet during this humiliating showdown from a woman who had obviously never read anything beyond a Mills and Boon, but inside I was calling her a whole host of names. Ladies and gents, I still think about all the witty things I should have said to her, but I won’t bore you or wind myself up by listing them out. However, it’s fairly safe to say I am still bitter about it.
Back to the subject at hand, my stance on heroes and heroines. To put it bluntly, my main characters need to be flawed. Otherwise, what’s the bloody point? I’ve read books whereby the protagonist acts the way we would all like to think we would when faced with angst, drama, stupid English teachers who have never read Lewis Caroll before, and if that’s what people like, then good for them. I probably like things many people hate. However, I’m not someone who likes to read about perfect people. Probably because I am flawed, the people I know and love are flawed, and, to me, that’s what makes them interesting. The term, ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ can sometimes be misleading as it implies they are perfect. I don’t try to make my main characters perfect; I use experience and influences from other pieces of fiction to help develop their stories. Again, some people enjoy this about my writing, others are frustrated by it, but it is how I work and what I enjoy writing about.
Let’s think about the hero for a moment or two. My first two releases included the enemies-to-lovers trope, which means the guy had the potential to behave like a bit of a douche. He had his reasons, his influences, but ultimately, he begins with a less than loveable personality towards the heroine. So many people have said they didn’t know how I was going to turn Bowie’s character around because he was a complete arse to Amelia. Guess what? He was based on a real-life person from my school days. Again, he had his reasons, and at fifteen most teenagers act like a bit of twit, blowing rationality and all of their previously learnt social skills to shit, but in the end, they need to grow out of it or face a lifetime of people calling them a *!£$ behind their back. I’ve since seen the boy who made me feel inadequate for a good year or two and he’s now a really nice bloke. You live, you dick about, you grow, you learn. What I don’t agree with, personally, is glamorising semi-abusive characters, whether it be mentally or physically, sometimes both. I’ve seen this and the results are not pretty. Not to mention that if this is the new ideal for poor boys, they are not going to know what the hell to do when it comes to seduction because they’re either being told to respect women and not use sexist comments (a big issue in UK education at the moment) or being given the dangerous idea that being abusive is attractive. And you best not be anything other than confident, alpha, or self-assured, otherwise, you are deemed as weak.
Heroines are also under huge pressure to conform to multiple ideals. You must be strong, be able to follow the best course of action, not be bitchy or slutty, but also not in any way prudish. Virgins are considered weak and if you don’t come out fighting after something traumatic has happened, then you are deemed as ‘stupid’, ‘unlovable’, and a poor character. You should also have some ninja skills wrapped under your belt so you can beat the crap out of some beefy dude who most likely weighs three times as much as you. And maybe some women would be ‘stronger’ in the face of danger, but from my experience, not many would slip on a boob tube and begin ‘hi-yahing’ all and sundry. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and such, I’m just pointing out the fact that it’s not very realistic. After something traumatic, you are more likely to be stuck in a state of irrational, clouded thoughts, just desperately trying to make sense of everything.
However, strength also comes in many guises. That woman who is shy, quiet, and always so affable, might well be living with domestic abuse, coercive abuse, or trying to get over some trauma you have absolutely no idea about because she keeps it so well hidden. The girl with the nervous laugh who avoids confrontation might be living with a parent who frequently forces her into confrontation whether she wants to avoid it or not. The girl who says nothing when someone is a douche to her might be living with depression and anxiety and just wants to avoid any more stress by keeping quiet. She might have been up all night worrying about things out of her control, performing rituals because she believes it will keep her family safe. So, yes, my heroines aren’t often on attack mode and sometimes they do not react the way you think they should, but there will be valid reasons for their behaviour. In the end, they show their true strength, just not in an action movie way.
The miscommunication between heroes and heroines, the back and forth, and general bickering between couples is also a source of frustration for some readers. Sometimes it can go on for a little too long in works of fiction or can be the only plot in a book, and this can detract from the overall story if not handled properly. However, if you look at a lot of influential pieces of fiction, Jane Austen for example, some of these issues are very prevalent. Look at Romeo and Juliet, one of the world’s greatest love stories in history, this is very much an example of miscommunication. If the priest had made a point of going to tell Romeo, ‘Oh, by the by, Jules is going to take a little something to knock her out for a bit, but don’t worry, she’ll still be alive. Don’t do anything stupid like try and top yourself until you’ve spoken to me about it,’ things would probably have turned out a little differently. But would it still be worth telling the story? Perhaps.
Also, let’s not brush over the fact that ninety-nine percent of real-life couples suffer from what I like to call, ‘dickish behaviour’. When the husband and I were ‘courting’ back in secondary school, I think our friends wanted to kill us at least once a week. We were often referred to as the ‘Ross and Rachel’ of the group. There was no cheating, but we were both ridiculous and running on hormones. We still bicker and argue about who said what (code for he says something stupid, I remind him, he feigns ignorance over it). Some of my favourite authors show this aspect of romance to perfection. Whenever I read a TL Swan book, especially the Stanton series, I’m always up stupidly late so I can get to a point where I know they’ll be ok. At the end of the day, we all love a bit of drama. We’ve outgrown the Cinderella ideals whereby the girl meets a handsome-but-with-no-personality prince, with whom she instantly falls in love with and lives happily ever after with. I’d go so far as to say modern day children’s films now include more conflict between couples – Shrek, Trolls, Frozen. Top selling franchises, by the way.
So, in conclusion, I wrote this post for several reasons:
- A warning that I like to write about flawed characters and try to represent them from real-life experience –I am not a fantasy writer.
- I am a review junky – I love to hear people’s differing opinions, even if it’s to moan about one of my characters. As a reader, I will read reviews and make my own conclusions but find it immensely interesting to see how people react differently to the same novel.
- I’m crap at poetry!
- I’m not into glamorising abusive behaviour. I’ve seen too much of it to think it is anything other than destructive.
- But above all, I was wronged in Year 9 and will forever kick myself for not coming up with some witty retort to my uneducated English teacher!!! Breathe…
Thanks for reading my waffle everyone! Do an author a favour and leave an honest review, however brief, or if nothing else, leave a rating. Cheers!
You can access my current releases using the links below (free on kindle unlimited):
The Darkness Within: