My perfect heroine:-

1. Over the age of thirty.

No more teenagers! What’s wrong with a woman over thirty? Some of the most beautiful, smart, intelligent and sassy people I know are over thirty. Most are even over thirty-five. I love young people but Jeez, I want to read about someone who is fully formed as a person.

2. Has skills other than looks good.

Why can’t a woman be a heroine for more than just the way she looks. I read so many books where the protagonist is falsely modest while everyone else around her knows that she’s a babe.

3. Does something other than fashion editor, PR, Editor, Journalist or P.I. Running a small gift shop or a book shop café are also out… Talking hen-lit here.

I want my heroine to have a real job. I want to be able to relate to them and I want her to have done something with her life or be about to do something with her life. Oh and being a mother counts as doing something with your life.

4. Guts, fire and/or gumption

Lot’s of it. She doesn’t need saving or rescuing. The male in the book does not need to swoop in and rescue her like some masculine form of deus ex machina.

5. I want her personal relationships to be real

She will not have a zany friend and a beautiful stick thin friend. She can also have male friends and gay friends and lesbian friends and even friends that are older and or younger than her. This is because she is a real person.

Sorry to all the male readers of my blog but it does annoy me in the current proliferation of fiction that all the protagonists are cardboard cutouts that lack emotional depth.

So, what annoys you about the current crop of female or male heroes?


  1. You have forced me to do this….ie: Your Perfect Heroine…

    1) Women don’t start to get REALLY interesting until the age of thirty-five. I say this because I am older than that and I realize how shallow I was when I was interested in younger women (girls..). Forty is even better. Remember, it takes two twenties to equal one forty.
    2) Looking good is a trait. Knowing what to do with “looking good” is a skill. That is to say, knowing “what to do” and “how to do it.” You don’t gain those skills at the age of twenty.
    3) Real jobs = real experience. Police work; Military; Peace Corps; Educator; And okay, I will give you “mother” as well. Everyone knows that is REAL work. (Please note–my list is not all-inclusive. There are plenty more “real jobs.”
    4) Saved..?? Do women still want to be saved?? If you want to be considered in all ways equal, then don’t ask to be saved. If you want to be a leader, learn how to lead!
    5) Real personal relationships—You know you are asking a lot, don’t you?? In these days of “reality” television, everything purports to be “real.” Separating the real from…..well,…the rest, especially in dramatic narrative, is exceedingly complex. Maybe we should just do away with all stereotypical models for characters and rely on the archetype. Which might work for a few moments—–but stereotypes grow from archetypes so there you are again…

    Looking back at what I have written, I am stricken by how close my thoughts parallel yours……horrors..!!

    • Great minds and all that. For me it is just about relevance.. I like real people and I should be able to look up to a hero or heroine. I don’t mind moral ambiguity either, redemption is something I can aspire too. After all people do bad things for the right reasons or vice versa.

  2. I agree, especially — “…cardboard cutouts that lack emotional depth.” I have noticed that women in fiction are sometimes portrayed as one-dimensional. No one is that uncomplicated.

  3. I think my biggest problem with some of the recent female lead characters (they don’t nearly deserve to be called “heroines”) is that they are all WEAK. I’m a pretty strong and independent woman, and although I’m only 32 I like to think I’m a pretty fleshed out character lol.

    I read a book a while back about a woman going through a divorce, and it was the first time I HATED a main character. I don’t want to go into details and bash the book but I thought it was awful. I’ll never read anything by that author again.

    Now I don’t mean to say that my female leads have to be balls to the wall brave and not taking anyone’s crap, but I want them to have a sense of self worth and do what they want, not what other characters in the book think she needs to do.

    This is another reason why I love the classics, like “Little Women.” Joe was an incredible character and wonderful role model as I was growing up (read it in elementary school).

    Don’t even get me started on the “Twilight” series. Meh.

    • Thirty-two is a very respectable age. I am thirty six soon and I loved “Little Women” too and completely agree. I worry sometimes that because equality is now such a “dirty” word that all these young girls are growing up reading about characters that are so insipid and vacant that they will feel they need to be that way too. Especially as the larger than life “Heros” find these “Shadows” so compelling.

      I actually enjoyed the story in “Twilight” but did want to throttle “Bella”. My husband commented at the time that I was muttering more than usual. – I preferred “Host”, I thought the story was interesting and unusual, the first seventy odd pages could do with a damn good edit, but once you get past those, it’s pretty good. The characters felt more rounded.

      • I think the biggest issue I had with “Twilight” was the fact that I kept comparing it to L. J. Smith’s “The Vampire Diaries”. I read it all throughout my early teens, and many of Smith’s other books. The worlds she created and the characters just blew Meyer’s away in my eyes. I also have a personal prejudice towards Meyer so maybe that would have something to do with it. I dunno, I’ll ask my shrink about it lol.

        The thing I keep trying to tell myself is if books like “Twilight” and “50 Shades..” can get published, well then there is hope for the rest of us! 🙂

  4. Fictional, as well as real life, I’ve been asking the same question.

    The girls who are becoming women these days, seem to remain girls even after reaching the age to become an adult. The young adults, who still act (and likely want to be treated) like girls don’t offer much in the way of a heroine. Writing about what you see in a café these days boils down to writing about how someone complained that their latte didn’t come with enough… whatever is supposed to be in them, or their iPuke battery died; their eReader isn’t allowing them to read; etc. — Past writers were able to get most of their ideas for courage, strength, and dignity from the people around them. Look around. What do most of the people of ‘today’ really offer?

    • C.A, I think you need a different coffee shop. Laughing, just kidding. I agree about some girls but there are quite a few out there who are old-souls like yourself. I do see strength and light and wonderfulness in the every day. Sometimes, it is easy to only see the bad stuff, the vacantness, the consumerism and the dregs. The darkness and the despair. Look a little closer, you’ll find that those things you talk about in your comment do still exist. I quite often see random acts of kindness that make me smile. You just need to look a little harder for it.

      What I don’t see in the YA fiction and even adult fiction being gobbled up are great role models to aspire to. Even, if they weren’t aspirational they could at least make the characters different from each other.

      • Perhaps I’m not looking close enough. I’ll give it a shot, without getting close enough to be slapped.

        I do agree there. I’ll occasionally pick up a book, flip to a random page, and begin skimming over it. Many times have I read two or three pages in the middle of a book, just to see how the characters and story are unfolding. Then, I put it back down because it seems like cardboard figure A is unsure of how to discuss matters with cardboard figure B.

        It bothers me to think that many of the writers who come up with these cardboard characters have actually gone through the college courses, or some other form of creative writing class, only to appear as though they’re not able to form a single complex thought.

  5. I hate it when the good guys are just so perfect! The bad guys are much more interesting characters, but then again, it annoys me when they’re too evil. I think you need to have faults if you’re a goody, definitely. Harry potter annoys me, because he’s too perfect. I like characters where the author has thought about the history of that person and how that would affect them. I like characters that aren’t pretty. I hate princesses or princess-type-girls that hang about in their tower, waiting for their too-handsome prince (who’s clothes and hair are pristine after that journey to find her) to come and rescue them when they could have tied together their sheets and abseiled out of the window. Duh. I’m an aspiring author, and I hope my characters aren’t so boring. Please look at my blog as it has all my stories on it, and I’d love some advice! Thanks! Love your blog.

  6. I haven’t read a novel in several years (though one of my degree is in English Lit.) and only watch tv sporadically, mostly news, cooking and travel shows. However I saw my first theatre movie in a decade: The Best Marigold Hotel with Judy Dench as a lead. Now, that is a protagonist that becomes a feel-good, Hollywood older woman who manages to salvage herself in India after she discovers post death of her hubby that hubby misspent their savings. Movie never indicates how she deals with the finance end of things but focuses on her mental rejuvenation and regaining sense of purpose (she ends up working at the hotel and befriends a pile of people).

    There are have been some few but rare portrayals of older women as independent, overcoming their personal demons, etc.

    What is particularily shocking and dismaying is the the quality of movies in their plot, characterization has fallen down significantly in the last few decades. And this includes portrayal of women.

    • Hi Jean, thoughtful and interesting comment – thank you. I agree characterisation really has gone to the dogs over the last few years. I often feel I am reading the same book or watching the same movie over and over again! Whilst I uunderstand that entertainment of any form is usually a business with people trying to make a living from it. I think the formulaic approach is not to anyones benefit. Not the reader, the watcher, the scriptwriter or anyone I know. I increasingly see others who are my generation or older turning away from fiction towards biographies only.

  7. My heroine is a 26 y/o paramedic (Ok, she’s under 30, I know) but she is short, boyish and still learning about what constitutes love, trust and heroism. Fiercely independen, she finally realises that it’s ok to ask for help or wear a dress – her first step towards real maturity.
    Does she count?

  8. Pingback: Kick-Ass Heroes – No! Make that Kick-Ass Heroines | Kim Koning

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