I like strong heroines. I don’t mean “feisty”, I mean strong. Heroines that can fight their own battles, heroines that maybe need a little softening around the edges, kind of like a female version of the Alpha hero but not quite so “ruthless”.
I like these types of heroines, but I have a hard time making them likable or empathetic in the first chapter when I’m writing them. Of the two novels I’ve written where I’ve used this type of heroine, I have repeatedly gotten feedback that they aren’t likable at first.
And yet, they’re my favorite heroines I’ve written. But, I know them and their redeeming qualities, the hurts that have made them tough, and well, I just know them. And if people get past that first chapter of unlikableness, they usually end up liking her. But, how many readers get past the first chapter with an unlikable heroine?
When Jane Austen was writing Emma she was quoted as saying something along the lines of she was writing a character only she would like. Not that I’m comparing myself to Austen, but I understand the feeling. Sometimes I feel like only I could like my heroines. (Also, I can’t stand Emma in the book. Emma in the movie with Gwenyth Paltrow & Jeremy Northam, on the other hand, marvelous).
So, one of my “to work ons” is to still write these strong heroines, but work on bringing their softer side out in the first chapter so people can empathize with them.
I do think this is a little bit of a double standard though. Very few people would bat an eye at a hero with the same qualities. They’d even like the hero for those qualities. I understand this to an extent, but I’ll be honest when I say that Alpha heroes are low on my list of favorites. Of course, that’s a personal preference, and I’m probably in the minority on it, and it all comes down to individual tastes.