Jilly: A Snippet and a Question

How likeable do you like your main characters? Will you take strong, interesting and flawed, especially if they grow and change during the story, or do you prefer them sympathetic from the start?

And do you think readers set the bar higher for heroines than heroes?

In the recent Duke University romance forum, Ilona Andrews said that in her experience, romance readers are more forgiving of male characters than female ones. A male character can do appalling things but with the careful application of a little tragic backstory, he can still become a hero. A heroine, not so much.

That set me to wondering about one of my favorite contemporary characters, a super-rich bitch called Sasha Montgomery. She’s on ice for now, but not forgotten. She’s not a nice woman, but I love her a lot and I’d always planned to turn her into a heroine one day. Now I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.

Below is a snippet from the life of Unredeemed Sasha. She definitely has a challenging backstory. I’d be very curious to know whether you think she could be turned around.

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Michaeline: Scarlett O’Hara

lush green velvet curtains with gold fringe hanging over a marble hall

Green curtains can stick in the mind for a very long time. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Originally, this post was going to be about events that boost the turning points of a story, but then in walked Scarlett O’Hara. And I don’t know about you, but when Scarlett O’Hara walks into my brain, I pay attention.

Now, I think it’s well established that Scarlett O’Hara, the heroine of Gone With the Wind, is not just a racist, but an all-around sociopath. With a few possible exceptions (and they mostly die during the course of the book), if a human being does not advance Scarlett’s sexual and/or economic agendas, the person has no value in her eyes and may be trampled over at will. She treats everyone like objects.

That doesn’t make her a very likeable character, and one of the pieces of writing advice we often run across is, “Make your heroine likeable.” Very good, very serviceable advice. But Scarlett swooshes right past the writing rule, because rules don’t apply to Scarlett. Continue reading