Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"I like my heroines with bite"

Stella Duffy wrote in Huffington Post about sympathethic heroines... the thing is that we have to find something likable in the characters we read about, to want to read about them. I think she has mixed likable and "niceness".

For example her Theodora."I say this with an awareness that the protagonist of my latest novel, "Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore" has been seen as unsympathetic by some. Of course, sympathy is in the eye of the beholder, so while some readers have found her cold, or even ruthless, others have found her funny, smart, passionate, as well as ambitious."

Yes, and a lot of people find Scarlett O'Hara unlikable. Like me, for example, or Alexandra Ripley, who was chosen to write a sequel to Gone With The Wind. And surprisingly many find the "new and improved" Scarlett likable, as they made a tv series of the damned sequel and more sequels and what not. That to me is disrespectful, extremely unlikable and hateful.

If you don't LIKE your main character, DON'T WRITE ABOUT HER. 
If she's yours, go ahead and change her. 
If she's not, DON'T WRITE ABOUT HER. 
You have no right, no excuses, no acceptable explanation to take someone else's character and change her to your liking, just because you can.

So, Alexandra, thanks to Scarlett, I will not read one book of yours. You should have had the ovaries to say "no", and leave the sequel to someone who finds Scarlett likable, because she is passionate, ambitious and has bite.
Also, as Margaret descibes her very clearly in the beginning of her book, and says she has BLACK hair and pea green eyes, you don't go on giving her RED hair, just because you think it fits better, or because her name was Scarlett or because in some movie, tv-series, fan art or something she's depicted as redhaired.
No, if you think there's something wrong with Scarlett, you write a book about Ruby O'Donnell from Kerry, who has in every other way the same life as Scarlett, except that she doesn't, because your Ruby would not have seduced her sister's beau, and your Ruby would have realized the value of Rhett - or Seth Valet, and been happily married to him and mother of several babies, as brilliant and beautiful as their parents. Or something.

So - I like my heroines with bite too, but I find the biting girls likable... Sympathethic. I like heroines who are really intelligent, not just think they are SOOOO smart, and "wise gals". I like heroines who have self confidence enough to be kind and tolerant and friendly. I like heroines who have ovaries to stand for what they believe in, even when it's not "nice". I want a heroine who is personal and interesting rather than beautiful, I want a heroine who is rather strong than cute, rather salt than sugar, rather old and experienced, and mellowed down by the experience, than young and innocent and stupid. I want a heroine who is equal to all the males in the book, not submissive and worshiping. I want a heroine who behaves well, due to her kindness and compassion to her fellow human beings, not because she has been "raised right". I want a heroine who dresses nicely, but is not a fashionista. I want a heroine who used to be a tomboy, someone who doesn't curl her lips or roll her eyes, someone who is no-nonsense and takes on the jobs she knows she can do, because someone must do them, and does her work well, swiftly and without whining, because I don't drink whine, not even with cheese and crackers. I don't find the preppy High School girls likable, or shallow people who care only about their looks, or Paris Hilton types, or cheerleaders or Dora from Anne of Green Gables. It's interesting that even Lucy found her bland and boring, so she isn't talked about much.

Anyway. I found out that Texas board of education bans books because someone with the same name has written something else they don't like. On the other hand, they don't like music, if they disagree with the composer's/lyricist's/artist's opinions on something that has nothing to do with music.


Hart Johnson said...

Oh, you and I have a great deal in common about what we like in heroines. I actually can take almost any flaw, though some need a good solid rationale or I lose sympathy. But goody-goodies, or proper women? Dull. Too sweet? They better have something ugly buried in there. Far better feisty or tough.

Helena said...

Wussy heroines drive me nuts! Submissive, obedient, good little girls in grown women's bodies simply aren't interesting or strong enough to drive a plot. Love or hate Scarlet O'Hara, the fact remains that she's strong enough and fascinating enough (even while she infuriates the reader) to drive the plot of a thousand page novel.

Here's a bright piece of news: in a Michigan town the prom queen was the same high school girl who the same night she was elected queen kicked a field goal to win the football game for her school. She was the only female on the all-guy team, and she says she's completely accepted by the guys. She's also smart with excellent grades. Now there's someone who could be a heroine in a YA novel.