So Your Readers Hate Your Heroine

So Your Readers Hate Your Heroine

When I first started writing, critique partners and contest judges would often have a problem with my heroines. When I sold my first book, my editor said I needed to make my heroine likable.

Geez. She’s a cold-blooded assassin (Circle of Desire) and I understood why she was that way. Why couldn’t she?

I had explained piece by piece throughout the book how she was a dumpster baby, grew up in an orphanage and foster care. Then she was molested and became a runaway, walked the streets for a small time pimp, and then trained by a psycho to be an assassin. Why couldn’t the readers feel sympathy for her?

Well, if more than one person tells you that they do not like a character, you have to listen. And a big clue is the two words I used above. I understood.

So that means, I didn’t help the reader recognize where she was coming from when she did or said bad things. You can’t guarantee that the reader will read the whole book to grasp all of the fine details that made the heroine become that person. You have to give the reader a reason for her behavior. Of course, I do get aggravated with a reviewer when they say “I skipped through the book.” If she/he had read every word, they would have understood the heroine’s thought process. But it is the author’s responsibility to make it clear in the beginning that the main character(s) is someone you want in your life or sympathetic to their faults.

With encouragement from my editor, I went into the first chapter and added a sentence. That helped. See, it doesn’t take an info dump to get a point across. If you’re wondering, I showed in the narrative that her hands shook. Showing she was human.

I believe women often have a problem writing women because we think our readers (majority women) know the motivations behind the female lead’s actions. But that’s not true. Not every woman feels the same way about a situation. So we have to explain or show her rationale.

Funny how I forgot that lesson from my debut book when I wrote my first Brother of Mayhem book, Hidden Heat. Several reviewers felt that Cassidy was being immature by the fits she dealt the MC. She’s a strong heroine who knew if she didn’t stand her ground the club would run all of over her. I obviously didn’t make that clear enough in the beginning. But thankfully some reviewers/readers understood. Here’s one review that proved it. Debbie’s Reviews in Goodreads.

This means we (authors) have to stay on our toes and give our readers the information needed, within reason and in the most entertaining way. And readers need to give strong (or weak) heroines the benefit of doubt. If you want to skip pages, just don’t read the book.