Friday, November 7, 2014


Um, no. REALLY hard to kick ass in that outfit.

Creating the “perfect” SFR heroine can be a challenge, but it’s not that much different than crafting the ideal historical or paranormal heroine.  All romance readers expect their heroines to be beautiful, spunky and intelligent, the equal in almost every way to the alpha heroes of the novels they read.

Unlike historical or contemporary heroines, however, SFR gals tend to be active players in what are currently male-dominated worlds—the worlds of space exploration, science, military conflict, long-distance trade, undercover espionage, even clandestine alien hunting. Note that I said currently.  In many SFR stories, the future looks quite different, allowing our heroines to move more easily in those worlds.

Operating in these environments requires a special kind of woman.  Typically, SFR writers respond with a kickass heroine to carry the story, a take-no-prisoners, command-grade female strong enough to stand up to any starship captain or space pirate.  Indeed she may be one herself, and she’s got the hard shell to go with the rank.

Only one of my heroines in the Interstellar Rescue series—Rescue agent Rayna Carver of Fools Rush In—really fits that mold.  Lana Matheson, the FBI agent of Trouble in Mind, certainly knows how to kick ass, but she is constrained both by discipline and certain vulnerabilities.  And Asia Burdette, the heroine of the first book in the series, Unchained Memory, has quieter, deeper strengths that only emerge in the crucible of crisis.

My heroines are very different from each other.  But there are some things I would hope none of them would EVER do:

1)  Giggle.  These are women, not girls.  They may laugh out loud, guffaw, chortle, chuckle, grin, snort or ROTFLTAO, but they will NOT giggle.  Ever.

See?  MUCH better!
2)  Wear inappropriate clothing/shoes.  At the risk of drawing the attention of certain trolls-who-will-not-be-named, let me just point out to all who suffer under this misconception that it is not possible to fight effectively in four-inch stilettos.  Well, you could take them off and stab someone with them, but otherwise, no.  It’s not possible to run in them, either.  It can’t be comfortable to sit at the controls of a starship for hours (or days) in a skin-tight leather jumpsuit.  Or do much of anything in a pencil skirt.  So, sorry, guys, my women won’t be dressed that way.  And while I’m at it, here’s a tip for film and TV costumers:  hard-soled shoes that echo in empty warehouses will get your cops and agents killed.  Put them in some sensible shoes, will ya?

3)  Wait passively for rescue.  I put my heroines in some tight spots—captured by black ops kidnappers, tortured by vengeful aliens, hunted by alien spies—and, yes, sometimes they need help from their heroes.  But usually by the time the knight in shining armor gets there, the damsel in distress has escaped the dungeon and nearly made it out of the castle.  My heroines take an active role in their own rescue, no matter how grim the situation or how minimal their “fighting” skills.  (Asia, for example, is not a trained martial artist, but she carries—and knows how to use—a gun.)

4)  Back down in the face of intimidation.  We expect our heroines to stand up to the villain—that’s the very definition of kickass.  But intimidation can take many forms.  If we’re talking about the interaction between hero and heroine and what constitutes sexual tension, that “intimidation” can even be completely unconscious, a matter of body language and chemistry.  My heroines have to stand their ground under the onslaught of the emotion churned up by the nearness of their heroes.  For women who may have dismissed such emotion before, or, worse, been hurt by it, this is an act of courage.

5)  Finally, my heroines will never, ever give up hope.  At first glance my heroines may not seem to be optimists.  They certainly don’t look at the world through any kind of rose-colored filter.  Tragedy early in life has taught all of them harsh lessons about reality.  Still, they all believe it is possible for good to triumph over evil, though they would likely snort in derision to hear it put that way.  When things look bleak, they push on. They may struggle, but they survive and overcome.  And in the end, they choose to continue to fight on the side of what is right, helping others to find a similar kind of peace.

There are probably a few other things my heroines wouldn’t do—listen to Barry Manilow, develop an addiction to escargot—but I wouldn’t swear by it.  Characters sometimes have a mind of their own. I will insist on the fundamentals, however. Some things are non-negotiable.

How about you?  Anything your heroines just wouldn’t do?

Cheers, Donna


  1. Great blog, Donna! And yay for SFR heroines. They are a special breed.

    My heroines would never give up their own goals for the sake of a man's love. The right man may be welcome to join her on the journey, but she's not going to cash in her dreams just to be with him.

  2. I love your list...except maybe the giggle part. At the right moment--perhaps involving a kitten, a sudden gravity failure, a creampie and a very elegant dinner party--even the most serious woman can collapse into a pile of helpless giggles. Possibly while hanging onto the equally helpless hero.

    Now I wanna go write that...

  3. Your article's picture frightened me. But it's okay, your words were correct. Yep, my heroines fit YOUR mould. Mind you, one of them in particular is quite happy to use the high heels and a cleavage to con the fellas into some info. Why not? It's another weapon in the arsenal.

  4. The heroines I enjoy the most--regardless of type--are those with agency. I find an SFR romance to be most compelling when both the hero and heroine have an equal impact on the story's outcome (especially in SFRs with external plots).

    Ironically, a story can have a kick-ass heroine with little agency. Conversely, a scientist/engineer heroine or one who works in a widget factory can wield the highest level of agency without ever holding a weapon.

    So one way I evaluate a heroine's strength and character depth is how much power she has in the story. Does she make key decisions that drive the story forward as often as the hero? How much influence does she have over other characters, including the hero? Is she as extraordinary as the hero or is the hero always the *most* extraordinary one? Do events happen *to* her and she simply reacts, or do her actions help set events in motion?

    For me, "perfect" heroine = heroine with agency!


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