Monday, March 23, 2009

Redeeming That Heroine

I think we all agreed a few posts back that while a heroine must be strong, she must also have weaknesses and vulnerabilities that we can relate to.

But what about when those frailties make her the antagonist in an earlier story? How do we go about redeeming this bad girl?

Perhaps by giving her strengths that overshadow her weakness? Or maybe her flaws lead her down a path of hurt and she comes out wiser for it.

In my WIP, the heroine has been a minor antagonist in the stories that came before. I'm trying to redeem her, trying to keep her likeable by showing her soft side and giving her certain heroic qualities.

Julie Lessman did a wonderful post awhile back about redeeming her heroine.

Have you written an unlikeable woman that you'd like to morph into a sympathetic character? How do you do this? How do you change her? Or do you only change the reader's perception of her?

36 comments:

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Interesting questions!

Redemption can come through new experiences, unexpected and life changing ones. Maybe a new character will drag her into their life and as a result, she will find herself dealing with things from her past.

I love stories where the heroine feels hopeless, helpless and as the reader, I do too and then Surpise! And I want to know how she gets through this or even if she does.

Jessica said...

Donna,
Great suggestion about the character having someone new drag her into their life! I hadn't even thought of that!
Stories where we feel the characters' despair are awesome as long as the story ends HEA. LOL

Jody Hedlund said...

That's such a tough one. Because readers don't want a heroine they don't like or can't relate to.

I think it's tough to portray a heroine with all her flaws and still find ways to make the reader really like her.

I suppose one technique is to show her "beating" someone up, and then in the next scene have her doing something totally selfless. The dichotomy makes her more real and likeable.

Jessica said...

LOL!
A bully heroine. That's funny. :-)

Stina Rose said...

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http://riikartsrose.blogspot.com/2009/03/premio-dardos-award.html

Nancy J. Parra said...

Good question- and a tough one. I think as long as the author believes in the heroine-that will come through in the writing and the reader will believe in her, too, and look for her HEA.

Janna Qualman said...

I had an antagonist (in just one book) who was difficult to be around; she made the MC and friends uncomfortable, and was an ungrateful, unpleasant complainer. Through the course of the book, she came to change, as she did some soul-searching. She realized past tragedy and overall unhappiness with life made her crotchety... and then she made conscious efforts to change. Spruced herself up, started taking college courses (as something to do for herself), and tried to see things through a more positive attitude.

It was less of an in-your-face transformation, since she was a minor character throughout just one book. But maybe it would work from one book to the next, too?

Kristen Painter said...

Interesting. I haven't actually attempted this yet.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

The first thing that popped into my head is the beauty of POV. We can do so much when we can write from the character's POV. If this antogonist in previous books was never a POV character, then becoming one can explain so much, I think.

As long as you can get the reader to empathize with the character--see her dilemma and why she chose to do the things she did, or her internal struggle in doing so, then we can redeem any bad character and, boy, what growth that offers for the current story.

That's my two-cents worth.

Jessica said...

Thanks Christina! I'll be by later. :-)

Jessica said...

Hmmm, that sounds good to me, Nancy. I def. believe in my heroine so hopefully my readers will. (LOL, like I have readers yet)

Jessica said...

Janna, I think it would. It's great that even a secondary character had an arc. Sometimes when they're static the story is not as deep.

Jessica said...

Really Kristen? I guess that surprised me. What about a hero? Have you redeemed one of those? :-)

Jessica said...

YES!!! Eileen, I think you hit it right on the nose (sorry for the cliche, lol). POV is an awesome tool for creating intimacy between reader and words. I'll keep it mind for when my heroine's past bad choices slap her in the face.

Cindy said...

I think this post is timely for the trilogy I am working on. A character introduced in book one is now the MC in book two. She wasn't overly likable in book one, which I intended. I wanted to be able to see her grow and change throughout book two. By revisiting her past, I've established the reason why she is the way she is, but gave her enough redeemable characteristics to (hopefully) make the reader want to keep going with her story. And now that I am getting toward the end of the book, I am really starting to like the character so I believe she has changed.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I have a gal in my book, who is a constant source of irritation to my heroine. I'm gradually showing the underlying causes to the conflict. Hopefully, she will have a change of heart although she'll always have an edge to her personality.

Blessings,
Susan :)

T. Anne said...

Honestly, I think that's an art. I read where Emily Griffin's male lead (in her novel series) was coming across too slick, she and her editor had to go back and rework the novel to make him more likable. Best to catch it in the beginning.

Jessica said...

Hi Cindy,
It sounds like you're doing a good job of creating a sympathetic heroine. Congrats for being almost done!

Jessica said...

Sometimes people with an edge to their personalities are fun. They say and do things that I'm to chicken to. LOL I think it's smart of you, Susan, to show the underlying causes. Like Eileen said, the pov is what can create that understanding and relation between reader and character.

Jessica said...

Hey T. Anne,
That's interesting. I agree. The beginning is where we form our opinion, so we have to have enough reason to think the character has some good in them, or enough to at least grow throughout the book.

Anita said...

I don't know if you've read Harry Potter, but I think Harry's aunt is a good study for this post. She's very unlikeable, but by the end of book 7, you can kinda understand her position better in the whole scheme of things...it doesn't excuse her, but it makes her a more sympathetic character.

Jessica said...

No, I haven't read Harry Potter, but that's interesting to know. I've heard how the beginning of the first book is set up and, poor aunt, she's not cast in a very flattering light. LOL

Kathryn Magendie said...

I wrote a short story about a woman named Adyna - people said, "she's so unlikeable" - she was what she was -- in the first version, she was much more unlikeable, but as I thought about her and re-wrote her, there came out reasons for the way she was, and a certain "loveable" but weird quality about her *laugh*

They're who they are, we have to just accept them and not try to manipulate too much.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I think redemption for a character always comes down to POV and perspective. Even if a character has done something "bad" to someone else, they have to from their own POV have a good reason for it.

I have an acting background and when you play an evil character you don't play evil, you figure out what their motivations are and play that.

Lady Glamis said...

My current novel, Monarch, has a great character that fits this bill. I redeem her in many ways, but I think in the end it depends on how your other characters react to that character. Readers seem to see things through the other character's eyes, I think.

Great question, though. I think it also depends on POV. Redeeming a first person character might be easier than redeeming a third person character whom we never get into their POV. If that makes sense.

Jessica said...

Kathryn, that's so neat that you could do that. I have a heroine who is unlikeable to a lot of contest judges because she jibber jabbers. I have to find a way of making people like her without changing her, you know?

Jessica said...

Lady Glamis,
Interesting. So you're saying to show the heroine's good qualities through how the other characters respond to her. I like that idea a lot!

Jessica said...

Kate,
That's so true! Great point, and it circles right back to knowing a character's GMC and how it drives the story.

jessie said...

Okay, first of all I want to say that I've recently noticed your word count bar has grown. So, congratulations. I haven't tried to redeem anyone yet, but I still have a lot left to write... But if I could redeem someone that I've READ I would redeem Caroline Bingley. Definitely Caroline.

Morgan Mandel said...

That's a great idea, turning an unlikeable character into a heroine. I'll have to try it some time.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/morganmandel

Jessica said...

Hi Jessie,
Yep, it's breaking me but the words are flowing. LOL It's like trying to exercise after months of apathy. Hard.
Okay, who is Caroline Bingly? I should know that name, shouldn't I...

Jessica said...

Morgan, it's kind of fun. It might be twisted, but I always think difficult females are fun to play with. LOL Now I just have to make people like her. Heheee.
Thanks for coming by. :-)

jessie said...

Where do you get the word bar anyway? I want one. Caroline Bingley is from Pride and Prejudice. I'm a big Austen fan.

Jessica said...

Ha! I knew I recognized that name. "Mr. Bingley" I can hear the lady's voice from the movie right now. LOL

Double click on the counter and it'll take you to a nanowrimo page where you can copy the code and put it on your layout. :-)

Terri Tiffany said...

I lived reading everyone's comments to this! I don't have much to add except I thought my character in my first book was abit harsh and I had to make her more lovable by showing her weaknesses and vulnerabilities and by the end-- I liked her!

Jessica said...

It's good to like your own character. LOL It's tough when you (ahem-I) thinks she's perfect, only to discover through contests that this heroine makes everyone want to scream.