Thursday, March 12, 2009

From Princess to Real-Life Heroine

As women, the first heroines we are introduced to are the princesses of the fairy tales. Who hasn't sighed in bliss and contentment when the kiss of the prince wakes Snow White, or when the glass slipper fit Cinderella's foot perfectly?

We got our first notion of Happily Ever After in such occasions, as well as a glimpse at what a hero should be like - a prince (do you realise they're all called Prince Charming, as if there's one single bloke for all those girls?) or a knight in shining armor who comes riding on a big white horse and sweeps the damsel in his arms and takes her to Far, Far Away where they live happily and have many children.

The damsel - that's what I am trying to get to (you should know me by now - I ramble. Big time!)

Heroines were built off the template of the fairytales damsels and the princesses.

But, is she applicable in our times? Just think back to the movie Enchanted - the princess, Gisele, is pushed by the wicked stepmother into the reality of today's New York, where for the first time she meets a flesh and blood man who isn't a gentleman, and who even curses, and where she calls upon all the animals in the city to come help her clean his apartment, by singing from the terrace! She also sings at every given opportunity.

The realm of fairytales, right? Exactly! A fairytale princess cannot exist in the world as we know it. She cannot simply meet the prince and accept his wedding proposal 2.5 seconds later, get married the next morning and live happily ever after while giving birth to many children throughout the scope of her reproductive life. Where's the realism here?

Nonexistent. And that's a big mistake where penning heroines is concerned - the lack of realism. T.J. touched upon this in her post on Tuesday.

Now, if you are writing a fairytale, this princess would work for you, but we have to face the fact that most of us write about real women who are facing real situations albeit in a fictitious setting. But fiction has to be as close as possible to reality. Even in a realm such as fantasy, where your world is wholly fabricated, there needs to be a semblance of logic that grounds your characters.

This logic is what you need when you pen a heroine. Why is it more important for the heroine? Because she is very much the strongest pillar you need in the foundation and construction of your romance story. There is no romance without a heroine, and most romance, while featuring a good deal of the hero, is based on the love story that touches the life of the woman.

I'll slither a side post here about heroines. On the blog Pop Culture Divas, there is a list of the strongest movie heroines of the past decade. I'm sure all of you must've seen those movies, or at least, have heard of them. Catch a glimpse of the wide variety in women and personas that grace the collective mind where strong heroines are concerned.

Take a glimpse at these heroines, and look very hard at the thread of logic in your heroine's behavior. This is ultimately what will help you create a superb character that leaps off the page and who will stay in the minds of your readers for a long time to come.
As always, your comments are more than welcome!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist

With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom? Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.


Sandy said...

Fantastic post, Zaynah. I totally agree that the heroine has to be real even if the story is fiction. My stories are often real as well, and by that I mean they deal with today's problems.

Thanks for your words of wisdom. No princess for me. Grin

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Thanks Sandy.

Losing this realism is what slides a story from fab to drab.



Chiron said...

Thanks, Z!

Yes, without that sense of realism a story can't grab the reader. I know what draws me to a tale is feeling like I could be the heroine too!

Thanks for another great post!

Chiron O'Keefe

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Thanks for the comment Chiron.

I'm glad the post made sense!