Pleasing Picky Bitches by Leia Shaw

As an author I pay very close attention to what fans of my genre (paranormal romance) want in a book. The hero is easy  – masculine, well-built and well-hung, alpha to the core, but can still be brought to his knees by the love of his life. Give him a few poetic lines and bulging biceps and you have a swoon-worthy hero.

But when it comes to heroines, we are picky bitches.  Our dislike/jealousy/hatred of each other in real life translates straight to our reading. Let me explain what I mean.

Look at any field saturated by women – nursing, teaching, administration, etc. These are fields with high employee dissatisfaction. That’s because of the drama women cause! Why? Because we feel threatened by other women. We are an oversensitive, catty, gossipy, vengeful species. And that’s when we’re not on our period.

Now I knew this, having worked in the childcare field, before I started writing. But what surprised me is how we treat characters in books the same way. If the heroine doesn’t fit our standards to a T, it ruins the whole story. There’s no redemption, no forgiveness, the writer should be tarred and feathered and her hands should be cut off so she can never write again.

Obviously I’m making some pretty big general statements here and I’m sure every one of you reading this is the exception to the rule just as I’m sure Johnny Depp will recognize me as his one true mate and take me to his chateau in France where we’ll  live happily ever after.  So no need to defend yourselves in the comments.

Anyway, I’ve been studying what we picky bitches want in a heroine. Here’s the list as I understand it right now (which is subject to change anytime because, well, we’re picky bitches):

Kick-ass when it’s time to kick-ass and never before or after, but also with a vulnerable side when the hero is near (or her pet dog).

Perfect, but with some flaws, but not too many flaws and only certain ones (like, she loves her pet dog too much.) The reverse is also true – imperfect but with no flaws.

She can’t be a doormat but she also can’t be too independent.

Pretty and skinny but also a “real girl with curves.”

Too cute is out. Too smart is out. Too sarcastic is out. Blonde is definitely out.  Don’t even get me started on mental disorders. The only disability that’s acceptable is dyslexia, but she has to overcome it 70% on her own, 20% with the help of the hero and 10% because of her pet dog (who she loves too much).

If she makes a bad decision, she’s too stupid to live.

She can’t cry too much or she’s whiny.

She can’t get angry or she’s throwing a tantrum.

She can’t ask for what she wants or she’s bossy.

She can’t try to get what she wants or she’s manipulative.

She can’t change her mind or she’s wishy-washy.

God forbid she tells a lie. She should burn in hell.

She shouldn’t have a religious preference, a sexual orientation, a race, or an aversion to Brazilian waxing (every hero wants a smooth lady).

Got all that? Am I making sense? If the answer is no, then you get it. Good job.

If you’ve been nodding along and agree with every criteria, then I speak on behalf of every writer out there when I say, we hate you.

Hopefully this blog post has been educational, or at the very least, a waste of two minutes. To the readers and reviewers out there, give us a break. More importantly, give yourselves a break.

To all my fellow authors and aspiring writers who are so dear to my heart…

…good freakin’ luck.

Advertisements

About Susan Hanniford Crowley

Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Author
This entry was posted in romance and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Pleasing Picky Bitches by Leia Shaw

  1. Mirriam Smyth says:

    Great post. I write my heroines how I want them to be because I like reading about flawed women. I like a woman who throws a tantrum, stomps her foot and storms off. I like one who reserves her anger and exacts revenge. I like one who whines but has a man who’ll shut her up with a look or a word. LOL I even like the ones that run at the mouth. What fun is it to read a book where I can’t relate to the heroine? No fun at all 🙂

    • Leia Shaw says:

      Ditto mirriam! I’m flawed. I have tantrums and get angry and I’m definitely bossy. I like that heroes have to deal with the same things as my husband. And to see that they love them anyway. That’s real life.

  2. According to Ditter says:

    Ya know, us picky Bitches are so guilty of not considering how difficult it is for an Author to try and please everybody. No matter what kind of Heroine you write…She’s going to be the polar opposite of someone reading the book…I say, You cant please everyone…especially us picky Bitches….So, rock on Sister, and us picky Bitches will continue to buy the books, and complain about the chick, while you smile all the way to the bank! No amount of picky, complaining jealousy will hinder you from being the star you were meant to be! We Women are fickle creatures who are hard to please…and yet you please us to no end! Much love!!! ❤

    • Leia Shaw says:

      Yes Ditter! Thanks for forgiving our imperfect writing and flawed characters. And for buying our books so we CAN ignore the criticism and laugh to the bank.

    • Mirriam Smyth says:

      Very true! I wrote a contemporary about a woman who had an incredibly big heart – she became a surrogate at eighteen for a couple who couldn’t have children. Someone wrote me and said, “Brenin’s too perfect and too kind hearted. There aren’t women like that.” I don’t know about perfect but there ARE women who are completely selfless and completely kind hearted. I wrote the person back and said simply, “Perfection is in the eyes of the reader. But kindheartedness is evident all around – you just need to open your eyes and look.”

  3. Kim says:

    I am picky to a fault. My pickiness (if that’s even a word) stems more from the physical attributes of the heroine. As a plus-sized woman it always makes me feel good to see at least one heroine out there that looks like me. But alas, most of the time the heroines are petite blonds or brunettes with the perfect figure, perfect hair, etc. As far as character traits nothing really jumps out at me that would cause me to be picky except the “subconscious banter (i.e. self-talk).” But I think that is simply because I’m always in my head and some of the stuff I say annoys the crap outta me! One thing is for certain….my pickiness (there’s that word again) won’t stop me from reading a book. 🙂

    • Leia Shaw says:

      Kim I’m a firm believer that there’s no perfect book. I love books. Some more than others. I can usually find something good about a book that I don’t love. And I can find something I don’t like in every book I love. A lot of readers can’t get past small issues or look beyond one little thing they don’t like. Which is their perogotive. But I feel bad for them because they’re missing out on what could be an enjoyable experience. Its a bit like eating a meal. You could focus on the turkey being a little dry or the potatoes needing more salt, or you can enjoy the dessert that came out good or the vegetable dish that’s perfect. Maybe it has to do with being an optimist or a pessimist, I’m not sure. I’m just trying to write heroines that women like and its exceedingly difficult. But it all comes back to, you can’t please everybody.

  4. Andrea Porubiansky says:

    Love it! Love it! Love it! And I love lots of different heroines that are strong for their own reasons. What’s important to me is the chemistry between the two. When the author creates sparks between the alpha male and his gal I love the story no matter what the circumstances are.

    • Leia Shaw says:

      yes, chemistry. you hit the nail on the head. balance, connection. i think it’s great when one character is flawed but the other balances that with their strengths. thanks Andrea!

  5. Laura Moore says:

    Too true! Excellent post, Leia. I feel like I should tape your list to the right of my computer for easy reference.

    • Leia Shaw says:

      Ack! Don’t do that. You’ll end up with a too-perfect mute with no personality. Unless you do the opposite. Then you’ll have a fiesty slightly insane, definitely loud-mouthed character. Hm. Sounds like me 😉

  6. Casey Wyatt says:

    Wow! I’m probably out in left field for not realizing all of this. I knew some of those things, but wow! I try to be mindful (no one wants a heroine who is too stupid to live), but most of the time I just write what I want and let my critique partners bag me for it. Sometimes I listen and make changes to my heroine and sometimes I don’t. I totally agree with the earlier comment on chemistry too. Thank you, Leia! 🙂

    • Leia Shaw says:

      Wéll you know me. I’m too lazy for real research. Really this is just a collection of observations based on the reviews of many romance novels I’ve read and written.
      But its good you’re unaware. Stay that way and do what you want.

  7. We all filter what we read through our experiences in life and our personality. Where some will just go, nope , I don’t read that sort of book. Others will read your story and find a kind-hearted woman and feel compelled to tell you she’s unrealistic and youre a bad writer. Another will see it as a small blip because that’s close to what someone they know is like. Another will go YES that’s my grandma or something, and love the book completely.

    And someone else will see it as an evil conspiracy and cyberstalk you so they can rain hell down upon you for eternity.

    I think a good strategy though, for a writer, is to find that key audience who do like what you write and, to a degree, cater for their tastes.

  8. The best we can do is write what we feel and hope that a few readers latch on! 🙂

  9. Pingback: Links of the week #14 « S. J. Maylee

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.