19 August 2022
Novelist Rebecca Raisin offers excellent advice about creating relatable lead characters in your romantic fiction
There was a time in romance where heroines were tough, sassy and strong. The sort of woman who’d have a sharp retort for everyone and burn mere mortals with just a glance. They knew exactly what they wanted in life, and nothing would stand in their way. While I loved reading about these larger-than-life characters who could conjure a clever come back and speed off in a Ferrari, I didn’t exactly relate to them.
Where were the women like me, who weren’t super confident? Who had lofty romantic ideals about the perfect man but didn’t quite know how to execute such a thing? The angsty quirky types who accidentally wore their T-shirt inside out and got caught staring at the cute guy as they drifted off into fantasyland.
I decided I’d write about heroines who weren’t super confident. They didn’t have oodles of money, in fact, they often struggled to keep jobs because they hadn’t quite worked out where they fit in the world. Would these women be more relatable because they were struggling with real-life things?
But what would that entail? She had to be fully fleshed out before I started so I knew everything about her. I do a character profile on every heroine I write. What makes her different? What makes her stand-out? Is it those differences? How would she react in a tricky situation? Write as many things down as you can. What does her laugh sound like? Is she a dreamer?
Usually, my quirky heroines have several hang-ups, because don’t we all, in the real world? For example, Rosie from Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop likes order, likes routine. Doesn’t like social situations, and has anxiety about meeting new people, and trying new things. She has no filter and says what she thinks. In order to show her reacting to a situation that was challenging and testing her mettle, Rosie had to face all those scenarios that she found so intimidating. Would she surprise herself with how capable she was? Or would she flee?
Like in life, if we jump outside of our comfort zone, we’re often amazed by the results. But fear stops us even trying sometimes. It’s the same thing with quirky heroines. They’re scared too. But isn’t that the beauty of fiction? We can send our heroines on an epic journey to face those fears, to find themselves and that leads to a growth arc that is important to every story.
Your heroine should come out the other side with a deeper understanding of herself and what she is truly capable of. She will fail along the way, she’ll doubt herself, she might wonder why life is so hard and if she’ll ever fit in. But she wasn’t designed to fit in, to be a cookie cutter image of everyone. She’s special because she’s so different!
She blurts out her feelings or wears her heart on her sleeve and takes chances because life is about trying new things. She might not be the tough talking, stiletto wearing heroine who knows exactly how to cut a person down, but she doesn’t need to be. The quirky heroine doesn’t care about all that. She wants to find her place in the world, the place that accepts her quirks and all. And the only thing that needs to change is that she truly accepts that she’s perfect just the way she is.
Top tips for creating quirky heroines
1. What makes her different to everyone else? Explore this side of her.
2. What does she find challenging? Show this, test her mettle.
3. What does she love that might be unique? How does this feature?
4. What are her deal breakers? The things she won’t change for anyone.
5. What does she yearn for? Make her work for it.
6. What is her internal conflict? Show her accepting herself just the way she is!
7. What kind of personality does she have? Amplify this. We want her to be 3D.
8. Who does she turn to for advice? Is she a great best friend? Let’s see her confide in someone she trusts.
9. How does she deal with conflict? Does this change over time? If so, how?
10. Does she get what she’s looking for, or a version of this? What had to change? Her self-image? Friends? Relationships?
Elodie’s Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin is out now by HQ Digital, £8.99
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