Hello, my inspireaders! Today, in accompaniment to the hero, we talk about the famous and often oh-so-cliched heroine, and how you can avoid those cliches. This is going to be a rather straightforward, informational post. I’m going to tell you about the common cliches and tropes that come with this character type, and how you can bend them to allow a new character to arise from old ashes.
#1: The Good Ol’ Romance Trope
All right, so this cliche might be a bit self-explanatory, but it needs to be covered – since the context in which heroines are written is usually romantic. I think that we’ve all read a novel where the plot progresses a little something like this:
- Girl who considers herself not pretty and is self-deprecating meets a perfect guy.
- Despite all odds, this perfect guy ignores all the other girls and pays attention to her.
- The perfect guy asks out our heroine. She says yes, and boom, they’re a couple.
- The couple go on a bunch of dates, have a few kiss scenes, etc, etc. The girl feels like that if she didn’t have her perfect guy, she wouldn’t be complete.
- The perfect guy breaks up with our heroine to start dating another girl. Our heroine cries for a while, has lots of broken feelings, and then – she has a breakthrough!
- Our heroine realizes that she doesn’t need a guy to make her feel complete! She gathers her strength and chews out the guy, and then goes off on her own little adventure of happiness, framed by the sunset, because, hey, she’s our heroine! She can do what she wants!
Sound familiar, anyone? Yes? I thought so.
This character type in this trope, unfortunately, is becoming quite common nowadays. Writing is often dropping in quality and originality – but that’s why I’m here! I’m going to tell you all how you can twist free of this cliche and reinvent the character.
In this specific romance trope, it’s not really the girl who’s in control. No. It’s the guy. He captivates our heroine, and she’s really not much of a character who makes decisions for herself. The guy is her entire source of happiness until the ending.
Now that we know the problem, we can fix it.
What if the girl was the controlling one? What if the guy felt as though they were moving too fast in their relationship? Now, simply by asking what if questions, we’ve already got an idea of how we could make this character better! Instead of being a helpless little damsel in distress, how about if she was headstrong and narcissistic? What if the guy broke up with her because he felt she was too controlling in their relationship? Now, there’s a good idea for fixing that trope.
In this same romance plot, when our heroine feels broken and sad because her guy left her – we can reinvent that, too! Say we went with the scenario of our heroine being controlling in the relationship. Well, the time after the guy breaks up with her would actually be a perfect time for some self-realization. Since her guy had told her how he felt, about her being controlling, etc, that time where she’s single would be a perfect time to reinvent herself, a time where she could realize “oh, all of this stuff he said is true, I should change.”
Perhaps she even ends up apologizing to the guy and they remain friends (or get back together 😉), and she feels glad that she’s trying to break those controlling habits.
And that, my dear inspireaders, is how you break free of a stereotypical romance trope.
#2: A Manic Pixie Dream Girl (oh, help us now)
Now, this cliche isn’t as common, but still it exists, much to my chagrin. This one is related to the romance trope, but it deserves its own point because it absolutely infuriates me. I don’t even know why, but I hate this cliched character type with a passion. End of story.
Now, you’re probably scratching your head and thinking, “Hey, Kadotake, what the heck is a ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’?” Well, allow me to explain. According to Wikipedia, ‘a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a stock character type in films. Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term after observing Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown, said that the MPDG “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and such characters never grow up; thus, their men never grow up.’
You can probably think of quite a few books where this character exists. They help the main character (often a guy they meet and fall in love with) to pursue their happiness and help them transform themselves to appreciate life – without the girl herself having any dreams outside of the story’s plot.
Now, the only way to fix this character type is to give them flaws, internal conflict, hopes, and goals outside of helping the other character. I’ve discussed this in the previous hero article, so if you need help doing this, I recommend visiting it. This character type is rather an easy fix, but you need to make their goals and internal conflict strong otherwise they’ll seem poorly developed.
Outside of this, avoid this character type at all costs. Please.
#3: A Wimpy Heroine
I can probably think of at least one book where the heroine was a wimp, only enforcing the stereotype that girls are weak. (Just so you know: we’re not.)
Imagine a book where you have a heroine who is tossed by the storyline. She doesn’t really give much of a say in her own life decisions and breaks down often, instead relying on others’ opinions, and she doesn’t push the plot forward. She’s rather poorly developed and doesn’t seem too interesting. Let’s call her Jane.
Now, on the other hand, imagine a book where the storyline is driven entirely by the heroine. She makes her own decisions, yet has flaws, regrets, and goals. She’s driven and determined to reach her goals, and has amazing development. Let’s call her Amy.
And say that you, the writer, are fed up and frustrated because you can’t figure out how to get away from Jane’s character type and more towards Amy’s.
The main thing I’d recommend doing here is spending more time on character development – much more time. Perhaps interview your heroine! Find out her goals. Find out what drives her. Find out what she feels strongly about and how that would influence her decisions. If you like to draw, maybe sketch her a few times.
After you’ve spent more time developing her, you’ll certainly have a more relatable, real character that’s more like Amy. You characters will mature and develop as you and your writing skills do as well, so try writing more if you don’t write too often. Write a few scenes with your heroine in them!
With these tips, I am certain that you’ll be able to craft a heroine who defies stereotypes, is strong, driven, and has her own goals and dreams. Now that you have these tools at hand, my inspireaders, go out and write that heroine! In the next character types post, we’ll be talking about the sidekick. So stay tuned!