Monday, May 30, 2011

Romantic heroines

I have been going through my notes from the Barnes and Noble "Writing Romance Novels" course by Leigh Michaels, and part of my notes are about the characters; 8 female archetypes. I was going to write about that and how the Waif created some waves... but I read on and I just have to react on Leigh Michaels "creating a sympathethic and heroic heroine"...

Now, I don't have her books so I haven't read the excerpt she is using to "prove" how her heroine is sympatethic and heroic... but her description... er...

In what ways is Morganna likeable?
Though she'd like to scream at the butler, she doesn't.
wait a minute, she'd like to scream at the butler? Why? If the butler behaves in ways that are not correct and polite, he's not worth his job, and he doesn't like or respect this girl he's being rude to. I hope he isn't HER butler. She takes care of her mother and sends her to rest.
She has a sense of humor, even in the midst of the troubles, she can joke a bit.
She sees things as they are and doesn't hide from the facts.
She not only feels responsibility for her mother's financial condition but she bristles at the suggestion that it isn't her problem.
Bristles? Someone suggests that she doesn't need to take upon herself such responsibilities - in which this someone is 100% correct - and she bristles?
When she unintentionally makes a rude statement, she immediately retracts it.
So she makes unintentionally rude statements. Oh so likable.

How is she real?
She hasn't told her mother all about this man she's met.
She's just a little tart-tongued at first ("did my father owe you money too?") and positively cutting at the end when she says she'd live in a cardboard box and eat cat food rather than be a trophy wife.
Someone offers her help and an easy way out from her problems without her asking for it, and she's not only sarcastic, she tells to a presumably attractive and okay person that she'd rather live - and let her precious mother live - on streets and eat catfood rather than marry him? That might be "real ", but it's not likable, sympathetic, heroic or attractive.


She's suddenly lost her father, and worse, her respect for him because of the situation he's left her mother in.
She loses her respect for her father because he's a dunce when it comes to money? Or because he allowed her mother to stay a trophy wife and do absolutely nothing, not even create a network of friends who could take care of her, if ever need be? Or because he didn't discuss with her mother about the finances, just like she doesn't discuss with her mother about the finances? Or what? How is this sympathetic?  
She's threatened with losing home, lifestyle, and social standing, though these are less important to her than her mother's losses are.
She was born into a social standing. You don't lose that just because you lose your money, because Money knows it's irrelevant. You can be a millionaire today, penniless tomorrow, and millionaire again day after. As far as I understood the hero wants to marry her because of her birth, not her money.  
Now she's faced with a difficult choice. She can save her mother, but at great cost to herself
Shouldn't be a difficult choice, if her mother's wellfare, status and lifestyle is that important to her. Besides, she can get divorce at any point, for example if she falls in love with someone else, and wishes to marry that guy What's the sacrifice here? He's bound to be attractive, and if she respects money, she should respect him.

She deliberately doesn't point out hurtful facts to her mother - like the people who should have come to call, but didn't.
So her mother is an idiot. So her mother is an unlikable idiot with no real friends. Go ahead and tell her anything, she won't get it anyway. I'm sorry, but being codependent is not heroic. It's stupid, harmful to everyone involved, places herself as a guardian of her mother, and as far as I know, her mother is not mentally handicapped or in other ways in need of guardian, but a grown-up woman... In fact, in the next sentence Leigh says she has no other reason to why she couldn't work except age and lack of experience. Where is HER chance to grow and be part of the decisions involving HER life? How does her daughter DARE to assume the guardianship, especially after her father failed so badly she lost her respect of him?
She knows that because of her age and lack of work experience, her mother is helpless to change her ciucumstances, and she doesn't hold it against her.
Why not? I'm sorry, but even trophy wives are capable of doing something so that they are not totally helpless if something like this happens, and frankly, even they are responsible for their own lives.
She's taken a job; though it can't repair the damage, it's something and it seems the only thing she can do.
It should be enough to give her an apartment and feed her. What else is needed? I mean, really, they have no friends in the whole world? Neither of them? How damn likable and sympathetic and wonderful are these people, actually? If I was left homeless and in debt because my husband can't keep his money, I have friends and family who would take care of me, at least until I get to my feet, and I AM disabled to some extend.
And when she's offered an option that can secure Abigail's future, she listens.
Oh? She's just a little tart-tongued at first and positively cutting at the end when she tells the guy she'd live in a cardboard box and eat cat food rather than marry him. I'm sorry but if I was the guy, I would say "So be it. Live on the street and eat cat food. "

I'm sorry, Leigh, but your description of your perfect heroine doesn't sound the least likable, sympathetic or heroic, on the contrary, she seems to have real attitude problems while at the same time being your typical codependent waif. *sigh*

I'm pretty sure I have read her books. I used to read a lot of Harlequins back in 80's.
Also, she is a published romance novel author, I am not. "More than 85 contemporary romances", and "more than 27 million copies of her books have been printed, worldwide, in 650 editions. Her work has been translated and published in 120 countries in more than 20 languages"... so, obviously she is right and I am wrong.

It's things like this that make me wonder if I'd ever manage to write a romance novel any publisher would be interested of.

Then back to the types... let's forget arche and stereo for a while.

Now, I don't think these two systems can be fitted on top of each other like this.
I also don't quite agree with these descriptions.

The best friend should be paired with the spunky kid, who is the quintessential "best friend". Why name her "spunky kid"? Why not "best friend"?

Men can be nurturing too. Where is the father figure? Are you saying it's okay for a woman to mother her lover, but not a man to father his lover? In spite of generations of women suffering from father complex, yearning for the acceptation of an older man, we are not to even mention this, because it's "ugly" in the eyes of feminist? Or what?

The free spirit? Loner-lover. And they exist in males too.

The waif? I'm sorry, Beverly, but some women are waifs. Some women are the silent mice watching the situation to develop as they decorate the room as wall flowers. Some girls do stay girls until they die. Innocent, pure, even as Sweet Charity, she will endure.
Now, if she has "tremendous strength of will", that I don't know. If you see Bella of Twilight as a typical waif, then so, because that girl will always get her will through... in spite of what ever who ever thinks.
They usually just follow the flow, and let themselves be taken. They are the classic romance heroines, young virgins, powerless victims of circumstances and in desperate need of the hero's protection, care,
I'm sorry, all feminists of the world, some women are like that, and they are not worse for that, and shouldn't be not talked about, or not portrayed as heroines, just because they aren't alpha females.
Interestingly enough, most waifs end up being just that - alpha females of an alpha male... mothers of more alphas, and you can be sure that mother keeps all her kids tightly tied with her apron strings...

And... doesn't that sound quite a lot like "ruler-thinker"...?

My father used to say "to minimize by praising" (ylentämällä alentaa, in Finnish - works better) - but make you to submit by telling how good you are, how much stronger, better and all you are, so you should be the one who sacrifices yourself, you should be the one who does all the work, you should be the one everyone gets to kick and walk over... after all, you can afford that, as you are soooo good! Ha.
I waited for 30 years for my turn, until I realized it will never come. There are always people who "need more", who should be compensated... Always.

Some waifs are not smart enough to use this to their benefit, but some are. Southern Belles, you know. Kitten factor.


Helena said...

You're right to raise serious questions about this "heroine's" character, her relationship with her parents, and her general attitude which strikes me as hostile, at least from what you've written. But since I haven't read much romance I don't think I can help you, only sympathize. I'm surprised at the number of novels (including serious literary ones) that have pretty unlikeable females that the reader is supposed to identify with, or ones that are so perfect we can't believe in them. Good luck with your own character creation -- you'll probably do a better job than the "professional" writer you quote.

Ketutar said...

You are the best, Helena :-)
Thank you :-)