Dear Editor, The heroine of my story is annoying. Please help!

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Dear Editor My heroine is annoyingDear Editor,

The heroine of my story is annoying. She has a good job, she’s nice to others, but I don’t really like her. Please help!

–Cynthia

Dear Cynthia,

The annoying heroine can be a difficult issue for the romance writer—and reader. Perhaps your heroine is too perfect or you don’t know her well enough. As you’re writing, you want to present a woman who has all her ducks in a row, is sweet, giving, and who never has lipstick on her teeth. But is this real?

This reader says no. True love can appear at any moment, even when you’re at your quivering worst. Or at least, at an inconvenient time, which is when you are yourself, i.e. not perfect. If you have a perfect heroine, you will turn off your reader because she herself is not perfect.

So how does one fix this one-dimensional perfect heroine?

Start out by finding those qualities about her that resonate with you. Much of the time, she is a person you’d want to be friends with and let’s face it, your friends are not perfect. They may be weird, fun, interesting. Flesh out as many characteristics as you can. It might be easier to start with the physical and move on to the emotional.

Give her some issues. Delve into those themes that hit home for you. Is she having a hard time as a single mom, a boss, a policewoman? Has she tried to find true love, really tried, and had trouble? Is she a lovable person that people take advantage of? Does she help others, sometimes at her own expense? Don’t give her so many problems that we feel sorry for her. One or even two rough issues are enough for anyone. Even just one difficult obstacle is fine, as long as you make it work.

What keeps bothering her? Once you give her some traits, ask what are those vulnerabilities that hold her back. These vulnerabilities are extremely important. As you may notice, the perfect  heroine does not have problems, which is why you might find her annoying. Our lovable heroine definitely has a glitch to her human program. She may be very allergic to the idea of romance. She could be convinced that no man will really understand her. Does she struggle with feelings of low self-worth?

Make her unique. Try to avoid those things that we see over and over again. She had one boyfriend and can’t face another ever. This is a little unrealistic. Often it’s a string of relationships that put a person off love. Or she doesn’t have time for love–another eye-roller. It may be true, but watch those clichés.

Why do we have to love her? Is she that girl who can’t afford it but buys herself an outrageous dress? Is she a little OCD about lining up the pens on her desk? Does she have a photographic memory? Is she someone you can rely on through thick and thin? Is she the girl who does everything she can to avoid crowds but goes to a concert anyway? Would she run back into a burning building to save anyone? It’s crucial to know why you love her.

What does the heroine want? This is the key to building a solid character. For the reader to connect with her, we have to know what she wants. This desire makes her act. And so the story begins.

If you think about it, the heroine is the delightful centerpiece of the romance novel. Of course, the hero is amazing and responsible for her falling in love, but you really have to love the heroine. We mostly experience the romance through her eyes (though we adore his POV too).

I hope this helps you on your quest to creating a fantastic, un-annoying heroine. If you get her right, that’s a huge first step.

Best of luck with your writing!

Patience & The Harlequin Editors

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