Last week I received editorial notes on my newest project “Lady Vivian Defies a Duke”. (I also learned the title last week & I wanted to share!) When I saw one of the comments from the assistant editor, I cringed. She said the heroine needed a bigger flaw.
It’s not that I disagree with her. I like flawed characters and I like to see them grow into better human beings. I do not like being lashed to a stake by readers and set afire. (Literally or figuratively, but probably less so in the literal sense.)
The heroine of my debut book was flawed. Lana Hillary’s self-esteem had taken a hit after a horrible split with her betrothed, and she grew up with a critical mother. Her parents also had been unhappily married her entire life, so she never had a good example of what a happy, trusting relationship could be. She caught some heat from some readers for not believing in the rake hero. She was also criticized for falling under his spell and allowing him to compromise her. She was a stupid, stupid girl.
I don’t recall anyone taking Drew to task for seducing her or being a man ho before they met, which made me begin to question a few things. Are we readers easier on the heroes than heroines? If so, why and is this a newer development, or have we always held the heroines up to higher standards?
Probably one of the most flawed heroines I can think of is Scarlett O’Hara. She is selfish, conniving, and a liar. Yet, she is a beloved character. Why is that? Believe me, I fell for her charms, too. I’m not being critical of her. I like flaws, remember? But is her appeal due to some factor I’m not seeing, or was she okay because women weren’t so hard on themselves and each other at that time? I honestly don’t know the answer.
I do find it interesting that my publisher looks for a heroine that readers can relate to and a hero she can love. (Well, not the hero part. We all want to fall in love with him or we wouldn’t be reading romance.) But what about the relatable heroine? Is it possible we are so hard on her because we project her qualities on to ourselves, or vice versa? Are we so driven by the need to be perfect that any flaw in the heroine feels like a bad reflection on ourselves and we reject it?
Isn’t this the only period in time where women seem to be expected to be successful in a career, the best moms evah, superb homemakers, have interesting hobbies, and look like super models who’ve discovered the fountain of youth? Talk about fiction. And quite frankly, if anyone does fit into that category, I can’t relate to her.
I’m not a super mom. I love my kids with all of my heart, but sometimes they get on my nerves, and I’m not very patient with them. I would be a superb homemaker if my house were self-cleaning. I don’t even know if I have a hobby anymore, because all my time is taken up with working, writing, being a mom and wife, and searching for that fountain of youth. And the super model thing? Let’s not even go there.
So back to flawed heroines… Do you think readers are easier on the heroes than their ladies? What do you consider unpardonable for heroes, and what flaw bugs you most about certain heroines? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
And BTW, darlings, you are mahvelous!