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June 03, 2014

How to Create a Heroine of Steel

In every story I write, my heroines are always tough women. In Hurricane Crimes, Beth Kennedy takes on a hurricane and a man who might be a murderer. In 30 Seconds, Dr. Dani Hart has to deal with a police-killing Mob. Both women are tough cookies!

In your story, make the heroine’s role important. Give her big things to do. Don’t just have her fall in love with the hero, or rely on him to save her. Make her as physically strong and as smart as the hero. She has to be able to keep up with him, not sit on the sidelines, and she definitely has to be able to stand up to him. A strong heroine should never cower when the hero (or any man) yells at her. In other words, she can’t be a weakling! But she can still have a soft side.

Heroines are usually beautiful in books. There is nothing wrong with making your heroine attractive, but make her different, too! Not all heroines have to be blonde-haired, blue-eyed babes. 

Along with beauty, give her abilities, skills, and strengths that no one else has. These can be supernatural or just different like carpentry, boxing or maybe she’s a drummer. She should also have the respect of other characters. Not necessarily all of them (like the antagonist, enemy or even an older sibling), but most of them.

When you describe the heroine’s actions, use detailed descriptions, especially if she’s in a position that requires her to be feisty and show her strength. Use strong verbs to reveal what she does, and how she feels in that moment. And when you write her dialogue, make sure she speaks her mind and speaks from her heart.


Here are 15 additional things that you can do to make a strong heroine:

1.    Crown her with a high profile career where she has a big role. She can be a cop, doctor, lawyer or self-defense instructor like Beth in Hurricane Crimes.

2.    Make her brave. This doesn’t mean she’s not scared (we all get scared), but that she can push aside her fear to do what needs to be done.

3.    Give her a temper. Some would argue a heroine should be poised and calm all the time, but a heroine who unleashes her anger when it is warranted can be very exciting and entertaining. And we all get mad.

4.    Don’t let her apologize, defend, or explain herself to anyone. What she does, she does for a reason, but she can still be compassionate.

5.    Show she’s smart! It’ll be hard to convince your readers that your heroine is an all-around tough woman if she’s dumb and can’t think for herself.

6.    Emphasize her flaws to make her real. All women have flaws, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t strong. By showing her flaws, you can also make her more confident.

7.    Give her determination. In everything she does, she has to be following her heart.

8.    When challenges are thrown at her, let her meet them head-on, even if they momentarily knock her over.

9.    Don’t let her take any B.S! She must stand up for herself, and others.

10.  Make her strong. She can be athletic or even have supernatural powers. Whatever her strength is, she needs to know it and use it! Maybe her greatest strength is her brains.

11.  Allow her to recognize when she makes a mistake, even if she doesn’t apologize for it immediately.

12.  Let her help people in their weak moments.

13.  Give her a fear she has to overcome, or an enemy she has to beat.

14.  Whatever her destiny is, have her move toward it even if she has moments of fear and confusion. And if she has goals, let her strive for them with her head held high!
15.  Here are characteristics you can give her: passion, ambition, confidence, honesty, courage and loyalty. (This doesn't mean she won't have weak moments. She will, but she'll overcome them.) She can also be humble, responsible and energetic.

SHARE: Your tips for creating a heroine of steel.

QUESTION: Who is your favorite heroine of steel in your writing, and/or in a book you've read?


Pat Hatt said...

Enemies are always good indeed and yeah no need to have some hero swoop in and save the day, have her do it herself.

Chrys Fey said...

Exactly! Heroines can save the day, too! ;)

Ashantay said...

Excellent post and the items for creating strong heroines are right on target! Strong, kick-ass heroines are necessary for teaching women about their own power - so many of us give it away because that's what we were "taught." Keep on writing heroines of steel, Chrys!

Sherry Ellis said...

These are some excellent tips. I think you've covered all the bases on how to make a strong heroine.

Loni Townsend said...

Loved the post. Found myself nodding to each one. I enjoy a variation of character personalities, but I don't tire of women being strong in books.

Unknown said...

Some excellent tips! I actually find it hard to write about characters who are shy or who don't speak their mind. Most of my characters are always feisty and are always having to take their foot out of their mouths! I also love it when a woman saves the day in fiction. Don't we do that in real life anyway? :)

Louise Lyndon said...

I love this post. I not only love reading strong heroines I love writing them. In my upcoming release, Of Love And Vengeance, my heroine is a dagger wielding, arrow shooting kick butt type of gal.

I also enjoy reading and writing about heroines who not only save the day but also has a vulnerable side too. I think if it's either one or the other then the character is flat.

I'm going to print out your post and pin it on my board!

J.H. Moncrieff said...

I used to always write from a man's point of view, but my last three protagonists have been women. My heroines tend to be sarcastic and witty--perhaps that's their super power?

Unknown said...

I tend to like to write women who are perceived weak at the beginning, but as the story progresses, both she and the readers discover who she really is.

Jana Richards said...

Great list of attributes! Something to remember when creating a heroine. She'll be kick-ass!

Slamdunk said...

Good stuff. I like your #3 as a temper can add intrigue and unpredictability to the character. It will also allow her to be courageous as anger can defeat rational thinking when acting.

I was thinking about my favorite heroine and am stumped. It will hit me later--probably like 3 am or something.

Ilona Fridl said...

I know with my heroines, I make them say and do things I wish I had in the past. None of "I should have done/said that" after the fact.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Ashantay! I'm glad you liked my tips for kick-ass heroines. ;) And you can bet I will. :D

Chrys Fey said...

Great! I was hoping I did. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I also enjoy characters with different personalities, but like you, I never tire of strong heroines. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I think it's so much more fun to write about a character who is feisty and gets herself into trouble. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

So do I, Louise. Wow! A dagger wielding, arrow shooting heroine sounds awesome. And she definitely fits the heroine of steel mold. ;)

Vulnerability is important. We all become vulnerable, so our strong character (male and female) should, too. But they have to work past it.

That's awesome! Thank you!!

Chrys Fey said...

Sarcastic and witty are super powers to me! ;)

Chrys Fey said...

It's always nice to take a character who starts "weak" and then give them strength they never thought they'd have.

Chrys Fey said...

Yes, she will be! ;) Thank you for commenting, Jana!

Chrys Fey said...

I've always found that temper adds to my characters. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

That's what makes heroines fun. We can have them do and say things we wouldn't, or wish we did in the past. I know I do that with my heroines, too. ;)

Yanting Gueh said...

I love posts about female protagonists. Like you, I like my heroines strong, but I also like them weak (at first). It always comes as a surprise for them to discover just how brave they can be.

Chrys Fey said...

A weak heroine in the beginning who finds her strength through the novel is another one of my favorites. :)

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. The MC in my latest book has many of these traits. I hope to write more steely characters.

Chrys Fey said...

And I hope to read about all of your steely characters. ;)