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message 1: by Janelle (new)

Janelle (janelle5) Hi everyone, this is the first thread I've created in this group so I hope it's in the right spot.
I've had a good look at the different threads and posts since I joined and I have noticed a lot of comments about heroines' fighting abilities. While I can see this is an important aspect of a heroine, I'm wondering if there are other qualities you look for in a heroine. What attributes do you like to see in the heroines you read and write about?


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Good idea for a thread and good question, Janelle.

I like a heroine who is intelligent, adaptable, and humane. I like a heroine who can think herself out of tight situations, but who is also human. She's not infallible because that would just be boring if she never made mistakes or got in over her head. I would like her to be principled and moral. She doesn't go along with the crowd but stands by what she believes is right. I think she should be willing to make enemies if it's for the right reason, but not always out for a fight.


message 3: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1514 comments Well said, Danielle; I agree!

Since we're specifically an Action Heroine Fans group, we probably sometimes, in our posts, tend to focus more on the adjective than the noun. :-) But to me, an action female protagonist's moral and humane qualities are the key to her heroine status; I'm drawn to heroines that I can genuinely like and respect, who fight for the right reasons and with a good attitude.


message 4: by Seeley (new)

Seeley James (seeleyjames) | 26 comments I agree with all these sentiments. What I find troubling, and as an author have fallen into this trap, is when heroines (and heroes for that matter) lie or do something unethical to get the result they want. I see this a lot in TV programs. As if the end justifies the means. Shouldn't a hero/heroine be above lying and ethical lapses?


message 5: by Billy (last edited Mar 15, 2013 01:29PM) (new)

Billy Wong | 52 comments Seeley wrote: "I agree with all these sentiments. What I find troubling, and as an author have fallen into this trap, is when heroines (and heroes for that matter) lie or do something unethical to get the result ..."

Well, it depends on how wrong the action is and what the alternative is. This might not be exactly what you mean but for example is killing someone you know is a good person at heart, but just misguided, someone a hero wants to do? No, but one can imagine a situation where there's little other choice and not killing them could lead to something worse (like say the death of many children/innocents as opposed to the one misguided but pure-intentioned adult)... this would also depend a lot of course on how dark the story is, but sometimes a hero has to shoulder the responsibilities of hard decisions.


message 6: by Werner (last edited Mar 16, 2013 08:09AM) (new)

Werner | 1514 comments Seeley, good question! It's important to many of us that heroines and heroes be moral people at their core; and I don't personally believe that the end justifies the means. There are some actions that I think should be, without qualification, off the table, such as killing an innocent person who isn't posing any deliberate threat to anyone. But we all live in a very flawed world, where moral white and black often mixes in debatable shades of grey, and people's ranges of options can be less than ideal. How a moral man or woman navigates that kind of terrain, without losing the ability to distinguish (or care about distinguishing) white and black, can make for some of the most interesting kind of fiction.

Even though we recognize honesty as an important virtue and truthfulness as the moral norm, I'm not convinced that 100% truthfulness in every situation is a standard that should always be required of everybody, especially where some deception would serve the greater good and even save lives. For instance, Cody Jamison, the title character of Bobbi Smith's Lady Deception, is a professional bounty hunter who uses her ability as a mistress of disguise and dissimulation to get close to her quarry --which, BTW, she has a reputation for bringing in alive, an outcome that might not be as likely if she adopted a more direct approach. I didn't personally have a problem with any of her masquerades.


message 7: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (last edited Mar 18, 2013 09:22PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments I am not a fan of lying, but I agree with Werner in what he said. There are ways of not being 100% honest, but in spirit being a honorable person. I think sometimes, you don't have to say anything if you can't be honest. I think that a wise person can think herself out of situations without making truly unethical choices.

I don't know if I like the whole killing someone for the greater good excuse. I think there other routes to use in a story then going this route by necessity.


message 8: by Billy (last edited Mar 18, 2013 07:03PM) (new)

Billy Wong | 52 comments Well, when I referred to killing someone who isn't truly 'evil' I wasn't referring to a child or anything like that, but more like an honorable opposing warrior who doesn't feel like they have any other choice but to oppose the hero to the bitter end... For example say the hero is protecting a child who is supposedly destined to destroy the world, and another 'good' warrior thinks the only way to save everyone is to kill that child. I would find it pretty acceptable if the hero is forced to kill the other warrior, because the battle is so close and if the hero loses the child will die, so he/she has to take any chance to win even if it's a killing blow... then again maybe I'm more accepting of darker stories than some, where not every problem might have a perfect solution.


message 9: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (last edited Mar 18, 2013 09:23PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Nothing necessarily wrong with the storyline you mentioned, Billy. Thanks for giving me an example of the scenario. I apologized if I sounded judgmental. Honestly, I would not be fond of that in a book, but it's not inherently bad. Just not my cup of tea. It's a realistic moral dilemma, but I have issues with kids getting killed and stuff like that, so it wouldn't work for me. I don't think that every story is going to work for every reader, and just because it doesn't work for me, doesn't mean that others wouldn't love it.


message 10: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (last edited Mar 18, 2013 09:25PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments I think it's easy to lay down hard and fast rules about what is okay and what isn't in a story. The lines sometimes blur as to what I find acceptable in a fiction story depending on the caliber of the writing. If the author is moving walls around so that it feels forced for the reader to make objectionable decisions, then it doesn't work for me. If it is organically written, then I can accept it more. I don't like feeling manipulated by a writer.


message 11: by Jonathon (new)

Jonathon Crouch (misterjonathoncrouch) | 6 comments It seems odd, but I think patience is at least the most useful quality, and also (unfortunately) a very uniquely female trait. Think Katniss Everdeen. She was a stalker and a watcher but no less heroic.

Also my favorite Nell from The Diamond Age


message 12: by Janelle (last edited May 14, 2013 09:42PM) (new)

Janelle (janelle5) Hi everyone, thanks for your comments. You made a lot of good points that really echo my thoughts on qualities I like in a heroine. I think my reason for liking these aspects is they give me something reachable that I can aspire too. I'll never be able to win in a physical fight, but I can still show heroism in my less dramatic personal circumstances.
Two heroines that I admire are Thursday Next from The Eyre Affairand Firebird from the Firebird Trilogy They are both courageous characters, who stand up for what's right against the odds. They don't always win the fight, but they hang in there and keep battling anyway.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

For myself, I like a heroine that I see a bit of myself in, a bit of who I want to be and a bit of who I should be. I like to be able to identify with her in some way.

I like a heroine with a conscience (even if she is a character who kills), someone who has the intelligence to know when to engage the enemy and when to withdraw. I like my heroines (in action or adventure) to be skilled with weapons, including hand to hand combat, but doesn't engage unless necessary. I would like her to think of a different resolution if possible but have the resolve to use deadly force without hesitation.

Just a few of my thoughts. :)


message 14: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 80 comments One thing I don't particularly like about heroes or heroines is when they're superhuman. Let them have some faults and weaknesses, let them be realistic in most ways.


message 15: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1514 comments Charles, I agree --I think that's why, on the whole, I never got into the whole superhero thing. I can identify better with heroes/heroines who have the same normal human capabilities (and limitations) the rest of us do, albeit maybe better trained and developed.


message 16: by Kevis (last edited Jul 04, 2013 07:59AM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Charles wrote: "One thing I don't particularly like about heroes or heroines is when they're superhuman. Let them have some faults and weaknesses, let them be realistic in most ways."

That's a great point about super powered characters. I think one of the reasons I was always drawn to Marvel's cast of superheroes was that their characters were flawed superheroes as opposed to DC's perfect-in-every-way types. Compare Xmen's Rogue to Wonder Woman. Both are stereotypically attractive, athletic, and possess super human abilities. But Rogue is a much more interesting character because of her inherent weaknesses.

Rogue's character asks a very important question. What do all humans crave? Intimacy. But Rogue's special talent to absorb the powers of anyone she touches at the risk of killing them prevents her from being able to physically be intimate with someone she loves. How frustrating is that? What damage does that do to her psyche? In many ways, her powers aren't a gift, but rather, a curse. On the other hand, what problems does Wonder Woman have other than finding someone to keep her invisible plane spotlessly clean?

It's always more interesting for any character, including heroines, to have flaws. We want to root for a character to overcome the challenges in their life. But there first has to be something for them to have to overcome to get us rooting in the first place.


message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 04, 2013 07:55AM) (new)

@Werner and Charles
I agree with you. It's nice to be able to identify with a character that is humanized.

@Kevis
You make a really good point about Rogue...and Wonder Woman but I wonder if might have something to do with the maturity of superheroes as time has passed. The Wonder Woman era is a lot different from the Rogue era. I think, as an audience, we are wanting those emotional ties with any character we 'fall in love' with.

No heroine or hero is perfect, or indestructible. Unless your HULK...he's pretty indestructible...or superman and how about Thor, but they all have their Kryptonite and that's what we want to see...how they deal with their Kryptonite and still manage to overcome and save the day.

Fiction is always fun that way because the outcome can be anything the author wants, he or she just has to make the character believable, even if they are a superhero. Wonder Woman was never believable but Rogue? We can feel for her.


message 18: by Seeley (new)

Seeley James (seeleyjames) | 26 comments Pam (E.P. Scott) wrote: "how they deal with their Kryptonite ..."

Excellent point, Pam. There is a definite trend, starting with Dark Knight, to bring out more of the flaws. I've not seen MOS but I'd bet big money it's a darker side of Superman than the Christopher Reeve movie.

Peace, Seeley


message 19: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 80 comments The humanized elements is why I so much liked characters like Ripley and Sarah Conner in Alien and the Terminator. They were very human, not perfect, not able to kick everyone's ass at the drop of a hat, but that made them so much more heroic in their ability to rise to the occasion, to do what they had to do in spite of the fear they felt.


message 20: by Billy (new)

Billy Wong | 52 comments Seeley wrote: "Pam (E.P. Scott) wrote: "how they deal with their Kryptonite ..."

Excellent point, Pam. There is a definite trend, starting with Dark Knight, to bring out more of the flaws. I've not seen MOS but..."


It is and that's why a lot of hardcore comic/Superman fans have issues with certain events in the movie...


message 21: by Leandra (new)

Leandra Azer (azerjaban) | 3 comments I like my heroines sarcastic and bitchy, but with a heart of gold :-)

I don't mean like prom queen bitchy, but takes no *ish and is allergic to injustice and intimidation

ie. Cerise in Bayou Moon, Mercy in Psy-Changling series, and Kitia in Codex Alera


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments I wasn't crazy about Mercy, but I definitely love Cerise, and of course, Kate Daniels.


message 23: by Leandra (new)

Leandra Azer (azerjaban) | 3 comments Whaaat? You didn't like Mercy, OK maybe she was a little too alpha. How about Adria? (Indigo was too serious for me)


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments She was too catty for my tastes. I liked Indigo a little more than Mercy. I haven't read Tangle of Need yet.


message 25: by Jon (new)

Jon Abbott | 297 comments Charles, message #14 above, writes: One thing I don't particularly like about heroes or heroines is when they're superhuman. Let them have some faults and weaknesses, let them be realistic in most ways.

Superhuman (Wonder Woman) no. Paranormals, yes. I'm developing a fondness women with magic or the ability to change.. It extends the range of plots and allows an author some freedom from mundane reality. That said, I prefer my paranormals to be part of what is otherwise a human society. This is the difference between a paranormal living in Half Moon Hollow, KY, and one in a clash with aliens out around Alpha Centuri.


message 26: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1514 comments Since I wrote message 15 back in 2013, my thinking has evolved a bit, in the same direction as Jon's. Reading the first two of Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock novels was a factor in that. Jane's a shape-shifter, so she definitely has a capability no normal human being has; but that doesn't make her invincible or immortal, and she still comes across to me as a fellow human with pretty much the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us. (The same could be said for were-coyote Mercy Thompson.)


message 27: by E.G. (new)

E.G. Manetti (thornraven) | 323 comments I've drifted to parnormal and scfi, in part because so many of the 'heroines' in contemporary fiction are bland and kind of passive. Notable exceptions would be Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawki and Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone. Interestingly - both first appeared in the early 80s.


message 28: by Jon (new)

Jon Abbott | 297 comments Unfortunately, I currently have a stumbling block when it comes to heroines who are in the policing / detective business. Don't know why and don't have the motivation to examine my prejudice. I know it exists.

A worse prejudice concerns books with lawyers as the hero(ine). I'm one. Lawyer, that is, not hero. The hired gun aspect of my profession doesn't appeal. Plus, when I read for escapism, I don't want to fight with the details, and most legal details in fiction have loopholes, are wrong, or simplify and pander to the public (either pro- or anti-lawyer.) Reading about lawyers just isn't fun.

Remember, I relish a good yarn in which I also learn about the world around me, either contemporary or historical. I've both defended a death penalty case and closed the door (the appeal door) on several felony murderers as a prosecutor. Setting a case in the criminal world doesn't take me far away from my former work.

By contrast, use of the word "midwife" in the title almost guarantees I'll read the blurb and often the sample, too.


message 29: by Tom (new)

Tom Holzel | 40 comments Seeley wrote: "I agree with all these sentiments. What I find troubling, and as an author have fallen into this trap, is when heroines (and heroes for that matter) lie or do something unethical to get the result ..."

My guess is that when heroes lie, the author has had a plotting problem he can't surmount.


message 30: by R. (new)

R. Billing (r_billing) | 38 comments Tom wrote: "Seeley wrote: "I agree with all these sentiments. What I find troubling, and as an author have fallen into this trap, is when heroines (and heroes for that matter) lie or do something unethical to ..."

I have a different take on this. Jane is a vivacious young woman, who can, shall we say, renegotiate the truth to suit herself.

She is quite clear about her rules. For example:

(Arthur) ‘You said you'd given in, you'd build the drive for me. When I heard that I knew it was all true, that I was the chosen instrument. I knew you'd been sent to help me, that you'd do everything you could.’
(Jane) ‘Arthur! You seem to forget that you'd strapped me to a chair and were hovering over me with a spray injector in your hand ready to kill me. Under those circumstances it's generally accepted that a girl can tell a few white lies.’
‘You couldn't have been lying.’
‘I was.’

Also she will make statements that are entirely true, but exquisitely misleading. For example when asked how she blasted her way out of the rector hall just before the explosion, she said "I had a little piece of string". This is true, but omits the fact that string went down the front of her dress and was supporting a small nuclear fusion powered weapon concealed in her cleavage.

Jane is a liar, but (by her own standards) a perfectly ethical one.


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