Five Things to Consider When Creating Your Heroine

Thursday, November 30, 2017
Lately I’ve been noodling over a new book idea. 

Understatement of the century: I’m not a huge fiction writer. And very little of what I write is for the grown up crowd. 

But a pair of friends jokingly suggested that I write a series set in a church choir.  Can you guess how we know each other? “They would have to be cozies.” “And of course I’d be your sidekick.” “They’d be great.”

While I laughed it off, I find myself playing with the idea. The protagonist. The setting. The title. The victim.

Before I go anywhere with it, I have some decisions to make about my main character although I do know a few things. She’s female. She sings soprano in her church choir. She lives in the Midwest. 

But that leaves a lot that I still need to figure out. Here are five things I need to consider and they all have to do with creating a character that readers will “get.”

1. Profession. Too many manuscripts I see are populated by characters who are writers. I understand why. Writers know writing. We write what we know. While many people dream about writing, they have other jobs. Although I'd like her to do something creative it might be her hobby. But she is going to need a job.  I have a few ideas.

2. Strengths… Too many of the lady detectives that I’ve read come across as GI-Joe in drag. She is not going to be a black belt or a marksman. But she is going to have street smarts – the kind that a woman needs to get by from day to day. So although she knows about keeping herself safe, she may end up in danger to solve the mystery. And that brings us to…

3. Weaknesses. I’m not interested in writing an anti-heroine. But my character will have to have some flaws to make her interesting. I’m not 100% certain what they will be but I think they should relate to her strengths. Perhaps one of her strengths (her sense of justice) could become a weakness in certain circumstances (she gets backed into a corner trying to help someone out of a fix).

4. Relatable. I definitely want her to be someone that my readers can identify with and part of this will come from realistic strengths and weaknesses. But I also want her concerns to be realistic and relatable. Our worries will be her worries – getting a more-or-less healthy meal on the table, making sure everyone is fairly presentable, and safety. Safety will have to be a big one.

5. Unique. Although I want her to be someone we could all know, I also want her to be unique and interesting. This means that in some ways she will have to be a little out there. The way we would all be if we could just manage to pull it off.

I definitely have some things to figure out, but I feel like I’m well on my way. And if something stumps me, I’m sure I can just bring it up with my friends. They seem to be full of ideas lately.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 8th, 2017.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--A sense of humor can get people out of lots of sticky situations, although that might not fit in with any of your characters.

This sounds like an idea (and a series) that would appeal to many readers. AND you could go from church to church to market it. ;)

Good luck (not that you need it).

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

A sense of humor, definitely a must. And it will fit in with my core group of characters quite well. IMO you have to have a sense of humor to sing in a church choir.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Sue ~ When I first glanced at the title of your post, I totally thought it read: "Five Things to Consider When Creating Your Heroin".

I was going to say that I knew you were crafty (I loved those calavera skulls you painted), but I didn't know you were the Martha Stewart of heroin production. Then I thought, wow, you are a genius if you can turn a recipe for heroin into a writing metaphor. :)

Your cozy sounds intriguing and totally fun. It sounds like you're off to a great start. You're so right about writers writing about being writers. I'm interested to see what you come up with! I like Sioux's idea of marketing at a church!

Mary Horner said...

Sounds interesting! I have trouble working with flaws of the protagonist. I don't want to overdo them, but it's a good idea to make him or her relatable and memorable. There needs to be a happy medium in there somewhere!

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