Identifying with the protagonist in any story is essential. Even if we don’t particularly like him or her or their choices, there has to be some sort of connection to pull us through the novel.
Often I see heroines falling into one of three categories: the any girl, the best friend or the better version of me. My favorites tend to the the third, and when I write it’s my goal to have that heroine.
1. The any girl is obvious. She’s the one who readers can immediately empathize with and feel like they can step in her shoes. This is a good thing. There’s something therapeutic about being able to see a character live out these adventures and think “that could be me!” I liken this to how everyone my age — myself included — was convinced they were Angela Chase from My So-Called Life. (The whole thing is up on Netflix streaming. Watch it. Every teenage girl will believe they were Angela Chase and you’ll swoon over the way Jordan Catalano leans.)
2. Less common, we see the heroine who there’s no way we could be, but we sure would like to hang out with her. These best friend heroines are the ones who if they were real, you’d invite over for a slumber party. This is how I always think of Kaylee from Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series. I like her quite a bit, I can relate to her feelings, but my teenage self was not Kaylee. I would have happily talked her through the whole becoming a bean sidhe thing, though.
3. My favorites are always the heroines I see as a better version of me. Maybe they’re smarter, maybe they’re stronger, but regardless of the added something — they, at least by series end, are what I’d want to be. Rose Hathaway from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series resonates with me. I identify with her conflicting sense of duty, pride issues and her need to be the best. She has some epic flaws, but her strength of character — going to Russia in Blood Promise — is worthy of admiration.
So, readers, what are you favorite types of heroines? Are you now going to go on a My So-Called Life binge on Netflix? (You should.) And, most importantly, which heroines do you see as a better version of yourself?
Ok, I don’t read a lot of YA, but the “better version of me” heroine is the who’s books I like to read. CS Lewis is quoted as saying, “We read to know that we’re not alone.” I think this is why some of us are drawn to the “better version of me” heroine. I think we all want to see ourselves in heroines and to see ourselves in a heroine that is stronger, less emotionally awkward or even wittier than we are is both good for our own ego and something we can strive towards.
For me, I can see tiny bits of myself in heroines like Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson, Nicole Peeler’s Jane True and Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels, not enough that they’re just like me, but certain characteristics or responses to life that remind me off myself. I can also see in them ways I’d like to improve or grow.
Absolutely! Jane True is a big one for me, as is Cat from the Night Huntress series.
Huh. I’ve never noticed the “better version of me” category but now that you mention it, I totally see it.
One of my favorite types of heroines is a rare spin on the “any girl,” the unchosen one. She’s related to the accidental hero because she’s not special in any way (no magical powers, no destiny, no special abilities etc.) but she perseveres and saves the day anyway. There’s usually a “chosen one” around to make the difference obvious. China Mieville’s heroine Deeba from Un Lun Dun is the perfect example of the unchosen one (actually, it’s where I stole the name from). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Un_Lun_Dun Pre-Angel Cordelia Chase is another good example. She was gorgeous and a bitch but she never had any special powers when she fought alongside the Scooby Gang.