Question: How do you create a believable heroine?
Answer: Damned if I really know. I suggest picking the type of alcohol your heroine will drink and then consuming that alcohol in large quantities while exploring her behavior.
Women are the toughest characters to write and deciding on who my heroine will be can be much more difficult than one would think. I believe a lot of authors begin with themselves, but somewhere along the line, they morph into someone else. Much like Rose of the comic strips, the heroine has to become something much bigger and bad-ass than we could ever be.
The simple truth is that I don’t want to read about me. I want to read about the person I wish I was. You know who I mean – the tall, lean, attractive woman, with great hair, and snappy comebacks. The exciting broad with the brains to solve the problems, and when all else fails, a solid right jab or a trusty Colt 1911. Except for the right jab and the 1911 – I’m none of those things. However, they are who I want to hang out with on the pages of a book.
So who is this woman going to be? When I start a book, I have a pretty good idea what my heroine is going to be expected to do in the course of the story. I know if she’ll be shooting, fist fighting, climbing mountains, fixing cars, or any number of other things. She may not be accomplished at the things I select, but she’ll need to have the courage to try. Part of the reason that I chose to write about women who have military and law enforcement backgrounds is they’re “doers.” They don’t just face adversity, they fight back. They don’t think of themselves as “girls” when it comes to the job. They are sergeants or deputies or officers or whatever else it is they work at. When they suit up for the job, they become part of something much bigger and it’s easier to be brave when partnered with brave people.
One of my primary objectives is to avoid letting my heroine do more than her character should be capable of doing. Don’t let a school teacher who’s never fired a gun, pick up an automatic weapon and fire it like an expert. Don’t let your Air Force supply troop be overly tactical. There are some out there who might qualify, but most of them can’t. Give your heroine realistic backgrounds, physical skills, problems, and the brains to know when she’s in over her head. Maybe she’ll get in a lucky punch or shot, but odds are, unless she’s been properly trained, she’s going to get whipped in a fight.
Finally. Creating a kick-ass heroine doesn’t mean that she can’t be afraid. The true essence of any kick-ass person is the ability to face fear and move forward with life.