Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Heroines Can Be Tough And Sexy Too

I was listening to a great piece on NPR yesterday about Cosmopolitan and the way it is looking at the role of women in today's market. As I was listening to it, I really started thinking about how authors today are portraying women in romance novels. What I am seeing is pretty interesting. I am either seeing the classic wallflower that needs to be saved, or the kick-ass heroine who pretty much doesn't take no for an answer. What seems to be missing a lot is that woman in the middle.

Joanna Coles, the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo notes that today's young woman has possibilities that include attaining the highest levels of education, having the sex life she wants, having a career and knowing how to ask for a pay raise. 

This is so true and we can also reflect these same beliefs and ideas in our romance novels. Sure there is something to be said about the hero being able to "save the day." We love these stories and there is something romantic about it. We also like those stories when the heroine is simply going to kick anyone's butt who gets in the way. But we don't have to limit our writing to just these type of characters.

The thing about romance and also women's fiction, is the ability of the reader to connect with and learn from what the characters say and do within the pages of your novel. They can see characteristics they admire in these characters and know that they too can do the same thing.

If, however, we make the women in our books come across as complete wimps who cannot do anything without a man there to save the day, what is the message we are sending to the readers? Are we perpetuating a stereotype we have tried so hard to break? On the other hand, if we send the message that the only way women can make it in the world is to take on the Lara Croft approach, does this send the message we want?

As an agent, I have to say, I tend to lean toward that happy medium. I love when the hero AND the heroine are on equal ground. I love when there are moments they have to save each other and the story is not just a one-sided affair. Okay, I cannot believe I am going here on this one and I will certainly hear it from my wife, but let's think about Jamie and Claire from OUTLANDER. Sure there are plenty of times when Jamie is there to save the day, but these two are total equals. She saves his butt just as much. She stands up to Dougal a ton in the book. And yet, she too can bring out her sexy side when she wants to.

The thing is, the genres of romance and women's fiction aren't there to simply be a good read for women. These stories should be reflecting what women are and what women can be. The women in these stories can have their cake and eat it too. They can be powerful women in your novels while at the same time, bring that sexy feminine quality that we want so much in the romance.

Maybe it is time we start to reflect the truth in our fiction writing. I don't know, maybe something to consider?

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