Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PAULINE IN PERIL: Creating a Sympathetic Heroine

There it is again. Yet another contest judge telling you that your beloved heroine (or hero, for that matter) isn’t sympathetic. “WHAT?? How on earth could that hardened, uncompassionate, unfeeling idiot judge not find my heroine sympathetic?”
After all, your now-breathtakingly beautiful Jane Heroine has such a heartrending past. Abandoned as a toddler when her worthless, drug-dealing parents ran off to join a harmonica band, no one else in the family was willing to take on a skinny kid with (GASP!) freckles and a runny nose. So she was passed from one wrong-side-of-the-tracks foster home to another, forced to run away repeatedly to escape wicked mothers who insisted she keep her room clean. She then dropped out of high school when her dyslexia went undiagnosed and fell into the arms of one undeserving man after another.
And if that wasn’t enough, she had out-of-wedlock quadruplets at sixteen--which she was forced to give up when beaten out of a Jerry Springer appearance and a reality TV show by a woman with 1001 cats. She’d no more been booted out the Hollywood door when she was kidnapped and held for ransom--until the kidnapper belatedly realized it was the cat woman who got the big buck contract not her. Battling a horrendous disease while living in a drug, alcohol and chocolate addiction rehab center, she then went on to marry and divorce three times and was widowed twice by age twenty five.
Then, at long last, in walks our Handsome Hero. Whew! Surely after all she’s been through this lady deserves Reader sympathy and that good-hearted man!
What is WRONG with that clueless contest judge???
Well .... maybe we should talk definitions for a minute?
Sympathetic: tendency to favor or support; entering into or sharing feelings or interests of another. Showing empathy--being aware of, sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the thoughts, feelings and experiences of another.
Pathetic: pitifully inferior or inadequate; absurd; laughable; oh so lame
Now, am I saying that a heroine (or hero) can’t have any of this angsty stuff in her background? No, not at all. Everybody loves an underdog, right? It’s as American as baseball and apple pie and your heroine needs to have background challenges to overcome just as we all do in real life. But a laundry list of horrific circumstances alone doesn’t a sympathetic character make. It doesn’t paint a living, breathing come-alive-on-the-page heroine a Reader can identify with, care about, and cheer on to a happily ever after.
Yes, a heroine given an undeserved hardship such as one (or several) of the above is a good start. But if that’s as far as your “characterization” goes toward building Reader empathy and identification, it’s shallow even though unmistakably tragic.
Bummer, right? You thought you had a surefire ticket to a Reader’s heart by throwing at your heroine everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. So what CAN you do to draw your Reader in, to get her to identify with and CARE about this fictional person on a printed page?
. .
Plant a dream in her heart, a GOAL. Who can resist a heroine with a worthy goal, a longed-for dream? Something she wants more than anything else? Give her an internal goal AND an external goal that embodies the internal one.
Give her strong MOTIVATION to reach that goal. This is where some of that angst-filled background comes in handy (just don’t go overboard please). Who wouldn’t want to cheer on a heroine who’s managed to come through this stuff with a nugget of hope still clutched in her hand and determination flashing in her eyes?
Throw in a CONFLICT to challenge the attainment of her goal. Nobody wants to read about a heroine, even one with a tragic past and a big dream, if she merely skips happily through the pages to attain her goal with no opposition at all. Give her an internal AND external conflict.
If you’re writing “inspirational” don’t forget to add a spiritual dimension to her GMC, too!
Then once you have that strong GMC established, there are myriad ways to further win a Reader to your heroine’s side. Here are a few:
Make her memorable. Her background. Profession. Hobbies and interests. Her physical appearance. What she wears, drives, lives in. Her thoughts, mannerisms and speech patterns/word choice. All of these can contribute to setting your heroine apart, making her distinctive and one of a kind.
Give her a sense of humor. I don’t mean turn her into a stand-up comedian or a slapstick comic book character. But a heroine is endearing who can laugh at herself, who can see the irony of a situation, who can tease and be teased.
Give her some imperfections and weaknesses. A heroine who is perfect--who always say the right thing, does the right thing, never makes a mistake, never loses confidence or questions her decisions--is usually not a heroine who wins the hearts of Readers. Now, am I saying you can’t make this a part of the character’s persona, one they later have a “revelation” about when they realize how they come across to others? No, but be careful about making your heroine appear so flawless(and so flawlessly boring) that a Reader can’t find anything to identify with and would just as soon see her fall on her flawless face or fanny!
Give her strengths. Internal ones AND external ones. Internally make her determined. Maybe courageous. Or fill her with faith. Externally allow her to be skilled at her chosen profession or hobby. Competent. Knowledgeable. An expert at something both tangible and intangible. Readers don’t want to follow the adventures of a dumb-as-a-rock heroine.
Make her care about someone or something besides the hero. Readers aren’t likely to take to a heroine who only has eyes for Her Man to the exclusion of all else. Give her another someone and/or a worthy cause to champion.
Let at least one other character care about her. This assures the Reader that there’s something redeeming even in a perhaps initially unsympathetic heroine. If because of her background the heroine is defensive, suspicious, hardened or over-the-top distressed and unforgiving, seeing her through the eyes of a character who understands the situation and recognizes her redeeming characteristics is vital to retaining Reader empathy.
Let her “save the cat.” That’s the term screenwriter Blake Snyder uses when a character does something “heroic” in a small way that hints to a Reader that there’s a soft side, a vulnerable side, a caring side to him/her even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. This is something especially important when a heroine’s actions or thoughts may initially appear to a Reader as less than sympathetic. So maybe your heroine is, on the surface, a hardened, smart-mouthed, street-smart gal--but let the Reader see her retrieve a dropped toy for a toddler or return a wallet full of money when she sure could have used it for a hot meal.
. .
Let her have overcome some challenges up to this point. We may know the heroine is wounded/challenged and needs to overcome those wounds/challenges in order to meet her goal, but give a Reader a sense that she’s triumphed a time or two in the past. That she has some underlying gumption. She may not have graduated from high school, but she’s worked hard for that G.E.D. or learned a marketable job skill. Then throughout the story, allow her to gradually conquer “tests” that will strengthen her and convince the Reader that she’ll have developed the experience, skill set and grit to face the final challenge at the end of the book.
Make her emotionally vulnerable. Let the Reader get in the heroine’s head. This is where Deep Point of View is so valuable in creating that empathetic link between the Reader and the character you want her to care for. Let her express herself, let the Reader know something about her that the rest of the characters on the page don’t know. Ditch the “she thought” phrase and naming the emotion stuff. Get right to the heart of it. Not “He makes me so mad,” she thought. But instead: How dare he accuse me?
Put her in danger--either physical or emotional or both. In a story of suspense, physical and psychological jeopardy are obviously critical. If there’s no threat, no menace looming, the Reader isn’t on the edge of her seat to learn how the heroine will live to see tomorrow. But by the same token, in both suspense and non-suspense there needs to be an emotional peril as well. What’s the heroine most afraid of? What does she stand to lose if she doesn’t attain her goal? What are the consequences and how will it affect her deep down inside?
Just like the 1914 film “The Perils of Pauline” and subsequent 30’s, 40’s and 60’s remakes, we can always tie our heroine to a railroad track, secure her in a chair next to a sizzling dynamite fuse, or dangle her over a cliff above a yawning canyon. But all the dangers, snares and angsty backgrounds we throw at our poor “Pauline” won’t win the heart of a Reader unless we give them someone to care about. That’s why the Pauline films were so popular--and why even an action film like “Die Hard” endures. Had the screenwriters not planted something deeper, something with which moviegoers could identify, the films would have most likely been totally forgettable.
In addition to the suggestions I’ve listed above, there are many other things you can do to assist your Reader in developing empathy for your characters. In your estimation, what makes a heroine (hero) sympathetic? What is it about the heroine/hero in your current WIP that you think will win your Reader’s heart to faithfully follow her/him to The End? Leave a comment today and be eligible to be entered in a drawing for a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card!
Glynna Kaye’s Steeple Hill Love Inspired “Dreaming of Home” is a 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers “Carol Award” finalist (short contemporary category), as well as a finalist in the inspirational category of Georgia Romance Writers “The Maggie Award.” Her next book, “Second Chance Courtship” (also set in Canyon Springs, Arizona), is a February 2011 release.


Andrew Rosenberg said...

I've been thinking about this a lot later, as I've been the victim of a lot of "your heroine is unsymapathic" critiques.
I know in my heart that I have a sympathetic character, but I haven't done a good job showing it.
One thing I've done is to show that she cares about more than herself.
Caring (and acting on that) are good ways to show how she has a good heart.
The other thing I did was to create a real nemesis for her, someone that will really challenge her to her limits. I think sometimes heroes/heroines don't get to really show what they are capable of until they are tested. Otherwise they are just boring do-goody nice folks. Get them down in the dirt, make them choose between two evils and live with the consequences. Then people will sit up and take notice.
Great post!

KC Frantzen said...

Hey Glynna Kaye

have you been reading my mail? Had an agent (well-respected) tell me this and I have been working on it ever since. This is one of those posts to print out, savor and review.


And to you too Andrew - you're ahead of me on that so I'll be learning from you also. :)

Gotta love Seekerville.

Since I'm up for the day - food!

Crusty fresh baked whole wheat bread with real butter and homemade blackberry jam... Coffee, fully leaded and decaf with all sorts of goodies to jazz it up, and teas. Whole milk. And assorted cheeses. Plus some muesli with raisins and almonds.


KC Frantzen said...

Ok - I was hungry and forgot to finish my post.

What will make my heroine (albeit 4 footed) sympathic so readers will root for her til the end?

Working on it now. The writing coach said she's kind of bratty right now, so need to apply some of the EXACT things you've shared today. She's a strong character and has some great qualities, but I've also not let the reader see her sweet side, and importantly, not given enough of a pay off - meaning - she's struggled and accomplished a lot, but I've not written in a scene where she actually gets to DO what she set out to do, if that makes sense.

or not...

Think I need to go smear some soft buko dill on that crusty bread...

Debra E. Marvin said...

Thanks Glynna! I'm printing this one out because I feel this is the weakest point of my WIP. Very helpful!
Good points, Andrew.

Thanks KC, today's breakfast sounds delish. I suppose a lot of writers will be eating airport food today.
Best wishes for all our friends on their way to Orlando for the RWA National.

Ruthy, I'm feeling the excitement in the air back here in WNY. You go, girl!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...


We had PB & J Day at work so I brought some of the stash here. Fluff, Nutella, PB, jam and bread.

Coffee is on.

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Glynna, very good post. Your heroine needs an intervention, but I like the points you bring up. Yours as well Andrew.

I like Michael Hauges take on it, which is very similar to Blake Snyder's.

He says to make a character sympathetic

1. make the character the victim of some some undeserved misfortune.

2. put the character in jeopardy

3. make the character liked by others in the story.

4. make the character funny

5. make the character powerful

April W Gardner said...

Hi Glynna,

I'm bookmarking this post! Question for ya--what if my heroine isn't liked by others, not even herself? There's too much trash in her past for her to forgive herself.
She even tries to commit suide at one point.
Have I made her unsympathetic to readers?
I feel like I can make it work. The hero does see some good in her, so there's that bit of sympathy.
Just hammering out the plot right now and was wondering if I'm going to alienate my readers by trying to redeem a character so far gone. I feel I can make it work.
Your thoughts?

April W Gardner said...

Oops! The comment left the page before I was ready!

Just wanted to say thanks for posting today!

Dianna Shuford said...

Glynna- I needed to hear read this post today! I've been working on making my heroine likable b/c I've gotten several comments that the reader didn't really like her. (That's opposite before when everyone hated my hero and loved my heroine!) Anyway, I've been working on adding in emotion where I can, and your comments will certainly help.

I guess I'll have to print this blog and post it where it'll remind me what I need to be looking for when revising.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Glynna, congratulations on your recent graduation from the Ruthy-school of elongated posts...



Proud o' youse!

And food.... Oh, gimme, even that muesli nonsense sounds good right now. Because I've got a cache of chocolate here in the room, (and some seed/nut nonsense) and the coffee.... K.C. and Teenster....

Thank you both.

Glynna, you outdid yourself. This is a keeper in so many ways. I love the gumption reference because we all like gumption. And the emotional vulnerability because even if a heroine's a bit hardened by what's gone on in her past, we want to glimpse the girl within.

S-W-E-E-T! You done good.

And my supper last night was a humongous hot fudge sundae with bananas at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Store....

Oh. My. Stars.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good points, Andrew! We know our hero/heroine inside out, but we need to give Readers, especially in those opening pagesy, a reason to care. So they don't say "so what?" Great idea to give your protagonist a solid nemesis to challenge and make her stronger as the story progresses.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, KC! Thanks for getting the breakfast goodies laid out for us! Great point you made -- that even though our hero/heroine may have wonderful qualities, they need the opportunity in a scene to demonstrate those. Having another character "tell" the reader our heroine is a sweetie/courageous/whatever is okay, but how much stronger will be the impact if the reader SEES our "sweetie" in action.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Debra! Glad you found the post helpful. :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Tina - Michael Hauge will be at ACFW this year, but I think you have to have a minimum of 3 books published to get in to his session. I've watched his DVDs (that you recommended) and alredy signed up to get the CDs from ACFW.

KC Frantzen said...

Pass some of those stars this way, would ya Ruthy?

man oh man.

Y'all have a great trip, learn lots and share share share when you return!

connie said...

Boy, did you hit me on the head this morning.

One of my WIP's, (been working on this one for years)has this issue.

And Diana, I had the same trouble with readers switching sides of who they thought was unsympathetic. Contest judges would comment they didn't like my hero because he was unsymapthic. When my entry made it to the finals, a well-known editor read it and commented "No wonder the hero left the heroine. I'd leave her to."

Great article.

Glynna Kaye said...

April -- I'm no expert at this but I think, especially in those opening pages, you need to give the reader something to latch on to, a reason to care what happens to the hero/heroine for the next 60-100,000 words. Which is where I think the 'save the cat' idea is really helpful. And it doesn't have to be anything super elaborate--maybe even just petting a cat, or holding the door open for someone, offering a sympathetic smile. Or something that shows us she has a spark of "spunk" underneath all the angst so the Reader thinks "I want to stick around and see her triumph." Having the hero see good qualities in her is good, too.

Kav said...

Definitely a keeper post and gives me lots to think about. I know I've read a book or two where I just couldn't relate to the heroine at all and I couldn't put my finger on why -- but now that I've read this I'm beginning to understand.

What makes a hero/heroine sympathetic? Vulnerability. In spite of whatever they're struggling with from their past they are still willing to expose themselves to possible hurt in order to do the right think, take the next step -- whatever.

I'm also immediately sympathetic to a hero who loves animals and children. LOL. But that's just me...though it does show he has a sensitive, kind, nuturing side, doesn't it?

Glynna Kaye said...

Dianna -- I'm glad you found the post helpful and "printable." :) I actually keep a 2" binder labeled "from start to finish" where I put certain Seekerville and other writing-related articles that I review before I start a new book. Then halfway through and at "the end" (before I revise and send in my manuscript) I re-read a handful of the most pertinent articles to remind me of what I'd INTENDED to do so I can ensure I'm still on track.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning to Ruthy (who is mickey-mousing around with other Seekers at RWA in Orlando)! Oh, I think I abandoned short and sweet a LONG time ago. Trying hard to get back to that, but it doesn't seem to be working. I intended this to be a basic checklist, but then I got elaborating on each of the points and well, there went short & sweet right out the window! LOL!

You're welcome to pop back in again anytime today, Ruthy, but please don't go rubbin' it in about the exotic desserts, okay?

Glynna Kaye said...

Oh, dear, Connie! We sure don't want that hero leaving the heroine! But I have a feeling that weaving in a few of these "sympathy builder" points will bring him--and the editor--back home again.

It really IS tricky at the beginning of a story to draw a character in which you intend to show GROWTH in from the beginning of the story to the end as, well, someone who NEEDS to grow--but without turning the reader against her right out of the starting gate. Fine line for sure.

Glynna Kaye said...

Kav -- I think you're right. If you have a big, gruff, tough and seemingly unsympathetic character but a kid takes to him, you're halfway there. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hi Glynna, Wow, hot and sticky here in Orlando but FUN FUN FUN and Ruthy DID eat the whole chocolate sundae. I watched her as I ate my own. LOL

But great blog. I have been accused of this very thing. Everyone loves my heroes but they say my heroines need work.

Well the heroines are great in my mind. So I need to print out all your pointers so I can get it on paper. smile

Miss you.

April W Gardner said...

Oh, Glynna, that's good. I can do that! I know I can make it work. My heroine a great person under that horrible weight of guilt and sin. You've been a HUGE encouragement to me today. Thanks!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Great points, Glynna!!! You nailed it. Throwing in every angsty thing you can think of doesn't make a character sympathetic. It's the character's actions and goals and internal thought processes that make them sympathetic.

I was really afraid the heroine in my Alabama historical was not going to be sympathetic, that people wouldn't like her, because she was really driven and a little abrasive, even rude. But nobody said that. Everybody seemed to like her anyway. I think it's because she's so honest, with herself and everyone else, and when she's rude, she usually regrets it afterward and wonders why she can't be sweet and content, like her younger sister.

Glynna Kaye said...

Melanie -- great point to have your heroine show regret when she's too abrasive or rude. That clues the Reader in that she's someone they can stick with. In one of my stories (in an opening scene from his POV), my heroine is irritated with the hero and gets in some "digs" at him--then in the next scene (her POV) she's cognizant of what she did, repents of it.

Glynna Kaye said...

April - I bet you can do it, too! I think it's a matter of stepping back and taking off the "x-ray vision glasses" we as authors have into the heart & soul of our heroine/hero and seeing how the Reader will perceive them in print.

Glynna Kaye said...

Ladie & Gentlemen -- don't forget! If you want to be eligible to be entered in a drawing for a $10 Barnes & Noble gift certificate, be sure to leave you email address using "at" and "dot."

I'm off on my day's adventures---will check in later!

Mary Connealy said...


Mary Connealy said...

I over slept this morning and maybe I'm still not awake but I'm having a terrible time coming up with anything to add here. Glynna, you laid it all out beautifully.

A sympathetic heroine.

Ummm...I remember in contest judging comments having people say, "I don't like her."

I remember debates on the ACFW Loop about "My heroine(hero) is bad at first but this is a story about how she changes."

It's just one of those perennial BALANCING acts. Yes, you've got to give your characters trouble. It's called a PLOT.

Yes, we want, in Christian fiction, our characters to grow in faith.

So if you have a trouble-ridden, faithless heroine, how do you make the reader care?

Again, balance. Good luck.

I need a new alarm clock.

Or no! Wait! Maybe I just need to remember to turn the old one ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kirsten Arnold said...


This post is definitely a print-it-off and keep! In two of my WIPs my heroines are extremely independent women who seem to have it all together. So, I let the reader see how they're unraveling on the inside. Also, I tend to give my heroines a sense of humor where they can laugh at themselves. I don't know if it works, but I'll find out as I just sent entries in to a couple contests.

Kirsten Arnold said...

Oops! I forgot my e-mail.



Rose said...


A timely topic for me. Although I'd set up a sympathic heroine, I (according to my editor) gave her too much angst with no happy memories so during revisions, I had to change that. Here while I was writing I thought it showed her worrisome nature more but I was wrong...

I'm printing this one out!

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Vince said...

Hi Glynna:

Wow! Your post is like a complete workshop!

I’m in agreement with the need for a sympathetic heroine. If I don’t feel for the heroine, I’ll stop reading the book. I don’t care how good the book is otherwise. What I dislike the most is a self-centered, somewhat superficial, heroine who can’t make her mind up between two heroes! First, she’s not worth the prize and second, I have a 50% chance of picking the losing hero to vicariously identify with. : (

I think the most sympathetic heroines in romance are in Betty Neels novels. I’ve read over 100 of them (I have all but one) and it is always the sympathetic heroine that is the driving force!

The key to the Neels heroine is that she is the victim of an injustice. Often more than one injustice. Yet her major concern is for others – often a pet or two. She doesn’t complain; she just ventures forth with pluck and determination. (Sometimes in the middle of the night, in a rain storm, with two little pets in her pockets. Don’t worry: a rich doctor in a Bentley will soon stop and offer her a ride.)

What makes this work is the fact that the heroine is virtuous and worthy and deserving of our sympathy. The greater the adversity, the greater the need for virtue to balance the scale. In order for sympathy not to become pity, there needs to be worthiness on the part of the heroine.

When reading a Betty Neels novel, I always want to step in and help the heroine myself. I actively root for the heroine.

Here’s a question for writers: do you think the reader will be rooting for your heroine? (I know: this is a sports analogy but people love to root!)

I must say that I absolutely loved “Dreaming of Home” because you had both an extremely sympathetic hero and an extremely sympathetic heroine. Both were highly deserving and both had mutually exclusive goals: the one teaching job in the tiny town and the one house for sale. I was rooting for both the hero and heroine and unlike the super bowl, they both could win.

“Dreaming of Home” stands out for me as a textbook example of how to create both a highly sympathetic hero and heroine and then raise the stakes by giving them mutually exclusive goals. It’s not like the hero can help the heroine reach her goals. He is the obstacle. She is the obstacle. It’s just ideal conflict!

I’ve copied your post to my “To Be Read Before Starting a New WIP” folder. Just excellent!



Pam Hillman said...

Great blog, Glynna! Lots of good stuff here.

And I agree with Mary: It's a balancing act to make the reader feel sympathy/empathy with the characters instead of thinking she's "too stupid to live!"

Amber S. said...

Thank you so much for this post! What great information and what great questions/ideas to think about! It can be hard not to go overboard on the challenges and troubles that face the heroine, and it's so important to have the reader really care about the character.

Thank you again for the great information! :)



P.S. Ruthie, I told you I would bring some unhealthy food for you today. So how about some saltwater taffy, hot dogs and fries, and sarsaparilla? ;) Everybody loves some fun summer fare, right?

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Glynna,
WHAT A GREAT POST. (I'm hitting print as soon as I comment) this is an excellent checklist.

I just finished watching Michael Hauge's A Heroes Two Journeys teaching DVD and it made me go back and reevaluate my heroines for various wips. This list you've given explains those elements all the more - thank you, thank you.

(waving to Tina R. - because she's the one who sent me that wonderful Hauge DVD series :-) I'm learning so much from it, Tina.

I had a heroine once who I thought was FABULOUS, but after a friend critiqued it (you know who you are), she mentioned my heroine might be a bit whiny. Whiny?
She was right.
And your list, Glynna, gives me better ammunition to make her more sympathetic, than pathetic :-)

Angela Bell said...

Thanks Mrs. Kaye for the great tips! I loved how you pointed out the difference between Sympathetic and Pathetic heroines.

By the way, I loved your book Dreaming of Home and am looking forward to your next book's release.


mary bailey said...

Oh, the plot you described was hilarious...and sounds exactly like a made-for-TV movie I saw in 1989!

I love my heroine but she's not exactly a sassy, take-charge kind of girl--you know the kind who seems to be really popular with readers in the Christian market. My heroine is more quiet and mild-mannered and I'm afraid that will be interpreted as passive and boring. What she has going for her are great friends who love her and who help her take the actions she needs to take to move the story along.

Thanks for the great post! This is going on my favorites list.


Julie Lessman said...


I just started writing the last book in the Winds of Change series last week, which has a totally new heroine without a drop of O'Connor blood in her veins! I've already written the first chapter, but just yesterday realized I needed to do GMC on her and get to know her a little better, so I started a chart today and VOILA!!! Here is your remarkable post. So THANK YOU for such a great blog and THANK GOD that it came when I needed it!! :)


runner10 said...

Someone who has integrity, compassion and sincere. They must be believable.
Interesting to think about.

Walt M said...

A sympathetic heroine means that I have to like them. (Usually, if they're a heroine, I find them attractive, but that's another story.) If they're annoying, then I want to see them blown away.

And, if they're whiney in any way, I want to see them blown away.

Very helpful post. (Now, if I could onyl find some cyber-chocolate.)


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Checking the online availability of food....

Will be back shortly.

Hopefully we've eaten all that cereal stuff.

(Kidding, Amber... Or was it wheat toast? Where is Mom and why isn't she baking anymore? Seriously, Amber, it's VIRTUAL food. Couldja just PRETEND Mom's baking, honey? Puhlease???)

Cara Lynn James said...

I used to be told my heroines (not my heros) were unsympathetic. I never saw that myself. Now I add some small 'heroic' act.

Very helpful blog, Glynna!

Amber S. said...

There's just no pleasing you, is there, Ruthie? ;) Yeesh! I thought saltwater taffy, hot dogs and fries, and sarsaparilla would be unhealthy enough for you. I'm on vacation right now, so cut me some slack! ;) Maybe I can bring some "real" food next week. :)


Pat Jeanne Davis said...

A very helpful post. I've been told my heroine is unsympathetic. Now I see why. I'm printing this one. Thank you, Glynna.

Glynna Kaye said...

Mary -- so glad you FINALLY woke up and could join us! :) Hate those alarms, don't you?

Glynna Kaye said...

Kirsten -- keep us posted on your contest entries. Let us know how the judges perceive your independent heroines with humor. I'd think that would win them over!

Glynna Kaye said...

Rose -- It's so hard sometimes to "see" your characters from a Reader's standpoint. We as the author know everything about our heroine/hero from the inside out, so it helps to have someone else read it to see how well we conveyed that.

Glynna Kaye said...

Vince -- You've mentioned Betty Neels before and I intended to order some of her books. Had in fact, jotted it down on something, then I lost it--so I'm creating a new note and tacking it to my bulletin board so I don't lose it this time. Thanks for reminding me!

So glad you found Dreaming of Home's hero & heroine both sympathetic and could cheer BOTH of them on.

Glynna Kaye said...

Pam -- you're right! Nobody wants to read about a heroine (or hero) that's too stupid to live! :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Amber -- so glad you found the post helpful. I think it was good for ME to sit down and think through what appeals to me in a fictional heroine--or not--so I can step back and look more objectively at my own stories.

Glynna Kaye said...

Pepper -- Glad the post hit the spot! That balance can sometimes be so tricky--establishing the heroine as the underdog who must overcome her circumstances and inner challenges to triumph in the end, yet not letting her get whiny/complain-i-fied to the point your Reader just wants to smack her. :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Angela -- so happy you enjoyed "Dreaming of Home!" I really enjoyed writing it, too!

Glynna Kaye said...

Mary B - I think you can use the same 'tricks' for garnering Reader sympathy with a quieter, introspective heroine just as you can the more "out there" ones. I think it's a matter of striking that balance and letting the Reader into your heroine's head and letting them "see" her through the eyes of others who admire her.

Glynna Kaye said...

Julie -- so glad the timing of the post fit right into your GMC development timeframe!

Glynna Kaye said...

Runner10 --

"integrity, compassion and sincere."

Excellent! The very characteristics that often draw us to others in REAL life work in a book, too!

Glynna Kaye said...

Whiney, annoying heroines -- BEWARE OF WALT! :)

I know what you mean, though --you want a heroine who doesn't make you want to throw the book across the room.

Hope you found that cyber-chocolate, Walt!

Audra Harders said...

Well said, Glynna! Kitchen sinks and all the flatware loaded in them can't demand the proper sympathy without the character themselves being worthy.

GMC has become the most hated acronym in my mind, yet so necessary. Where are we without goals or motivation or conflict??

Your characters might as well be having a merry tea party, passing the crumpets and the clotted cream.


I loved your examples from Pauline. You're absolutely right, we love her enough to make more remakes than you can count and recognize the analogy the moment you breathe *Perils of Pauline*

Great job, Glynna. Makes me want to go back and work on my heroine some more : )

Glynna Kaye said...

Cara -- I'm glad you said you USED to be told your heroine's weren't sympathetic, because I think you have the sympathetic heroine thing down pat now if your first published book, "Love on a Dime" is any indication!

Glynna Kaye said...

Pat Jeanne -- So glad you found the post helpful!

Glynna Kaye said...

Thanks, Audra! We'll probably both be up late tonight reviewing our WIPs with this checklist in hand! :)

Casey said...

I really have nothing to add, I am so new at writing, I am learning to just sit back and listen and watch. :) Thanks for the post!


Pammer said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I didn't get the unsympathetic, but I got she's unlikable and she's weak. This article really broke down what makes a great heroine, a likable one, and a strong one to make it easy even for me. Tonight I'm gonna be following this advice and reworking my heroine.
Such perfect timing too!

Glynna Kaye said...

Casey -- Thanks for stopping in! So glad you found Seekerville!

Glynna Kaye said...

Pammer -- so glad the post timing was perfect for you! Good lunch reworking your heroine!