What makes a great romantic heroine?

I’m starting a new series of books and this time it’s all about the romance. I tried this years ago and it didn’t really work out. I didn’t know how to make the feelings real. Now I’ve learned how to write a whole novel, I think I’m ready to dip into this genre again. Now I find myself asking what I want my heroine to be – is she like Bella or like Scarlett? a statue of a man and a woman in modern clothes embracing

What’s the difference?

Bella is a great passive heroine. She wants someone to help her, to save her to make her feel as though she is worthwhile. This means things tend to happen to her.

Scarlett on the other hand has a goal throughout the entire book. It changes, but against the backdrop of the Civil War Scarlett is taking action to achieve her goal. This means things tend to happen because of her.

Does it matter whether the heroine is active?

Good question. I think when we look at writing today, heroines are active. Katniss doesn’t wait around for someone to make everything better, she fights for what she wants (I know The Hunger Games is not a romance, but it’s a good example). Yes, circumstances keep going against her, but that’s the villain making things difficult. Every time she thinks she’s safe, the rules change. The most compelling stories are about the hero/heroine struggling against an external force that keeps fighting back.

A passive heroine (or hero for that matter) doesn’t fight back, someone always helps them through the difficulty. I think there’s a place for the passive heroine, but it’s not easy to do a good job keeping the story going if they don’t start fighting back.

What about character growth?

A character who starts out being blown around by fate gets interesting for me when they start to learn about themselves. In the Bella example, what if she learned that she was causing most of her own problems and throughout the stories morphed into more of a Buffy than a Bella. Now that’s character growth.

In romance the heroine often changes in the opposite direction these days. An independent strong woman learns how to depend on a man and her life is enriched because of it.

For me, a romance needs to have characters who are strong in their own right and then become stronger because of the love. I know for other people romance is about surrender, letting someone else take the responsibility for being in control.

Is there a right answer?

Now, that’s the thing about romance – on the page or in real life – it’s all about what gets you through the night. Romance is about fantasy, sometimes letting someone take control is the right fantasy, sometimes taking control is what you want.

What would you prefer in your next romance?