How to Write a Heroine

heroinehowtowrite

The process of writing the heroine is the same as writing the hero. Both are on a journey that brings out courage and tests their quality of character. Both share similar definitions in the dictionary and both have annoying cliches based on gender.

 

heroineimagehero

 

 

Let’s expand on the definition and say…

  • Courage can also be defined by determination, adventurousness and fearlessness.
  • An act of bravery can be defined by a risk that is honorable.
  • Noble qualities in his or her character can be compassion, ambition, vision, ect.

Think like your heroine…

  • What fuels my determination and causes me to be fearless?
  • Why would I take this risk?
  • What is it that’s motivating me to help?
  • If there is a problem how do I solve it?
  • What resources do I have within myself and around me to solve it?

A common cliche is the heroine being a weaker version of the hero. Stereotypically where the hero excels the heroine almost manages to succeed.

I feel that character flaws like self doubt and fear are great for both the hero and heroine but the goal is that eventually through their journey they overcome them. Isn’t turning fear into courage what makes someone heroic?

There are many more options than the damsel in distress cliche.

For example the alien invasion plot presented in How to Write a Hero.
Let’s explore how we create the escaping heroine instead of the damsel in distress…

During the first wave of alien invasion the heroine finds herself in the middle of war. The local k-mart she works at has become an intergalactic battlefield. She takes up arms fighting her way out eventually teaming up with local towns people. In a desperate stand off between space monster and man they drive back the invaders and the town remains standing. But, wait! In a sudden change of events the heroine is beamed aboard an alien warship. Using whatever she finds in her pockets and her advanced knowledge in mechanics she escapes the alien laser prison and cleverly takes over the alien spaceship. Landing the ship outside town humankind now has the first piece needed in ending the space wars. 

This plot concept presents these key points:

  • The heroine takes a stand along side her fellow towns people
  • She uses her knowledge and skill to devise an escape
  • Escaping heroine instead of damsel in distress

Analyzing your own work and understanding what you’re trying to say with the characters you create and the story they inhabit is important. As well as looking at the cliches and stereotypes your characters have to deal with. It allows you to play with more ideas, add depth to their personality and tell a meaningful story.

How to Write a Hero

hero

Before I begin I need to clarify that this is not a list of demands for the mainstream media or any writer but instead a self revelation and some personal thoughts on the topic of masculinity and a little brainstorming on how to create and portray a hero.

There’s a lot of discussion and resources on how women are portrayed in video games, film and popular culture. It’s inspiring, empowering and challenging to research as a woman. It also got me thinking if this is how the female leads are supposed to be portrayed what kind of crap are we writing into our male leads?

To be blunt there’s a lot of those apathetic muscle bound heroes or sexy sad vampire stalkers. Is a hero really nothing more than a gym membership and dysfunctional personality?

Popular culture and society might be all up in my face about what makes a real man and there is pressure to create hollow heroes. This contradicts with my moral compass and integrity as a writer and human being.

So, what is the definition of a hero then? 

Dictionary.com describes a hero as “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.”

In order to create our hero we should be asking ourselves these questions…

  • What makes a person courageous?
  • Why would someone do something brave?
  • What are noble qualities and how do they show in a person?

Think like your hero…

  • Why would I put myself through this?
  • What is at risk here?
  • What is it that I am sacrificing and why is it worth it?
  • What is it that’s motivating me to help?
  • How do I solve this problem?
  • Who’s help do I need?

The hero always goes on a journey of some kind. Metaphorical or physical it is a test of his courage and quality of character. The end of the journey is often the result or reward and the driving motivation for his journey.

A typical summer movie will make his motivation for saving the world a hot girl that he gets to make-out with. Which essentially makes the heroes motivation sex and generally that’s not considered a brave deed.

Let’s say the hero is saving the world from space aliens.

What if his motivation is the well being and safety of his community and his courage is demonstrated by not being intimidated by the superior space technology.

One of his noble qualities is believing in the strength and skills of the heroine and teaming up with her to protect his planet from an invasion.

He invents something with the help of his community to take down the invading space armada. In the end he is rewarded with a safer universe and the prosperity of his community through the invention of this new technology.

Some key points this plot makes is…

  • Community & society as motivation to do good
  • Belief in the talents and courage of his fellow human beings regardless of gender, race, nationality, etcetera
  • Using innovation and collaboration as a solution to our problems

As a storyteller I should aim higher for a great story, a courageous, daring, inspiring and meaningful story because a hero is constructed to achieve great things and in doing so inspires his fellow human beings to change the world.

Avoiding popular clichés and stereotypes makes space for more creative innovation.

Even though I’m not a dude I find it offensive that often popular culture chooses to portray a real man as some primeval beast with a lack of emotion that has no choice over his sexual and physical impulses. This is not a healthy image for boys or men to have of themselves.

You are all so much more awesome than that and carry the great potential of a hero within you. All you need to do is something courageous.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort
and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.