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6 Clichés To Save Your Heroine From


Hello, Visionaries! Today I've got a guest post from Erin Bronn all on how to write to save your heroines from those dreaded things known as cliches! I loved this post so much! Erin has included examples of what not to do and what to do in order to flip these cliches on their heads!


I hope you guys enjoy this post as much as I did!

 

When it comes to writing heroines, there is no such thing as "one size fits all."


Unfortunately, instead of crafting unique and relatable heroines, the powers that be are repeatedly opening the drawer of cookie-cutter clichés and giving us the kind of predictable, frustrating females that make us want to snap the book shut and throw it across the room.


Oh. Just me, then?


Well, either way, I think it's time to address some of the major clichés that are wreaking the heroines of today!


1. The Dumb Blonde

You know the type. She's pretty, she speaks in a breathy voice, she's usually the afterthought in her friend group, and her neurological activity is somewhat...lacking.

As a (mostly) blonde myself, I would love it if we stopped equating blondness with shallow apathy.


Karen Smith from Mean Girls is a prime example. Sure, it's easy to laugh it off when she says stuff like, "If you're from Africa, why are you white?", but isn't it sad that her only purpose in life is to be the punch line to every joke?


DON'T write shallow characters. Scatterbrains exist, but forgetfulness and a tendency to daydream do not define a person's entire identity. So DO give your characters depth; what is your version of Karen Smith actually good at? In what way(s) is her personality a good thing?


2. The Tough Girl

She needs help from no one. She's fierce, independent, unafraid, and maybe a little hardened by what she's experienced.


This is perhaps the most forgivable cliché out of the lot, because it is also the most believable. When life is hard, she has to be harder. But the problem with Tough Girls is that they too often convey the idea that she can't be strong and gentle. She can't be tough and caring. She can't be brave and still need help sometimes.


Take Astrid from How To Train Your Dragon as a good example of what a Tough Girl should be like. She's the best in her class, a fierce warrior who can wield an axe like it's an extension of her arm, and she prefers to rely on her own skills. But for all her experience with dragons, it only takes one encounter with Toothless where she is completely helpless to prove that she has fears.


Astrid shows us that being tough isn't the same thing as being strong. When confronted with her fears, she does what a strong woman should do by letting someone who cares about her help her face them.


DON'T fall for the notion that a strong heroine has no room for fear or emotion. DO show the cracks in her armor and give her opportunities to be vulnerable, scared, and in need of support.


3. The Rebel Without A Cause

Just last week, I started reading a book that featured a female FBI agent as the protagonist. Everything was fine and dandy until she decided that she deserved to be in charge of the investigation and suddenly devoted herself to the power grab.


The Rebel Without A Cause resents everything and everyone. Her life is just so unfair, even if she's gorgeous and accomplished and has her own personal Daddy Warbucks. Somehow, she deserves better. And you can bet she's going to throw caution to the wind and go after what she wants, regardless of whether or not she has a valid reason.


It's really hard to like a heroine who is so overconfident in her skills that she thinks she's superior to everyone else.


Take Moana as an example of what rebellion should look like. First of all, she was in no way assured of her own value—it took a long and difficult journey for Moana to realize her purpose. Secondly, she didn't hop on her canoe and vamoose simply because she felt like it: she went to her father, twice, to try and convince him that something was wrong. It was only when he repeatedly refused to listen that she took matters into her own hands.


DON'T write a heroine who likes to fight authority for no good reason. DO give her an important cause, and have her at least try to go through the proper channels before she goes at it alone. I don't know about you, but I would love to see thirty-something year-old characters stop acting like petulant teenagers and show a little maturity!


4. The Ice Queen

No, I'm not talking about Elsa—although, I'm sure there are only so many girls out there with magical ice powers


I'm talking about the cool, composed, and entirely unaffected "Ice Queen"—the woman who is undaunted by emotion, purposefully starved of relationships, and who has a backbone of steel.


The good thing about this trope is that there's room for reason when it comes to why she is so cold. Unfortunately, authors seem to forget that there's room for nuance, too. Just because your character has been hurt in the past doesn't mean she shouldn't open up to someone new. Just because she is determined to climb the career ladder doesn't mean that she has to be all business, all the time.


Remember that all characters should be a reflection of real people. DON'T make them so one-dimensional; leave room for the little intricacies that make each person unique. DO keep in mind that we all have feelings, and your characters should, too. Readers want to connect with what they read on an emotional level, and that's not going to happen if your heroine is frostier than an icicle in Antarctica.


5. The Wounded Animal

Sorry, but that was the best way I could think of putting it.


This is the woman who has been used, hurt, abused. The woman who is chained to a dark and painful past. And it's probably one of the hardest tropes to navigate.


Trauma is a tricky beast. It has lasting effects, which might manifest differently in different people. At the end of the day, it won't be hard for your heroine to become like a wounded animal: feeling like she's backed against a wall with no other option than to claw her way out.


The characters from The Hunger Games are obvious examples, but I want to point out two in particular: Joanna Mason and Katniss Everdeen. Joanna is older than Katniss, and harder; any of the hope she once had was destroyed by what the Capitol did to her and to the people she loved. Katniss, on the other hand, suffered countless tragedies, all of them heaped on top of each other until she was drowning in a dark and seemingly inescapable place. The difference between these two wounded women? Joanna, embittered by her experiences, gave up on hope. Katniss, desperate for a little light, clung to it.


DON'T always allow her hurts to be the reason she hurts other people. There is no excuse for inflicting pain on someone else. It doesn't make what happened to your heroine go away, and at some point, she needs to realize that fueling the cycle will never bring healing. But DO be sensitive when writing trauma; like I said, it's one of the hardest aspects of the human experience to authentically portray, especially if you're writing about something you haven't actually experienced.


6. The One Who's Not Like Other Girls

It doesn't matter if she's a tomboy who likes climbing trees or a bookish introvert who cares nothing about makeup—if she thinks she's "not like other girls", she's probably wrong.


There's nothing wrong with being unique—I tell you all the time to write unique characters! But when it gets to the point of "no one understands me" or "I'm just so different from everyone else", your heroine will go from relatable to annoying.


Yes, we're all different. But we're also all human, and part of what invites a reader to invest in a story is a character (or characters) they can relate to. You know that feeling when you meet someone who shares your obsession with an obscure TV show or who agrees with your controversial opinion on cereal? We all love the feeling of being understood!


It's like C.S. Lewis once said: "Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one..." And readers are no different!

DON'T write that character who's so quirky it's just plain weird, and yet somehow everyone is still attracted to her. DO write a unique and multifaceted heroine who at the very least you can relate to.

To summarize:

Give your Dumb Blondes a level of depth.


Give your Tough Girls a chance to be vulnerable.


Give your Rebels a valuable cause.


Give your Ice Queens a way to express emotion.


Give your Wounded Animals a way to heal.


And write real heroines that your readers can relate to!


Honestly, there are a thousand clichés we could cover, but in the end, it's simply about going off the beaten path and writing the kind of heroines you'd want to read.


Have you ever caught yourself falling into the cliché trap? How do you write heroines that readers could root for?


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Blessings,

Erin

 

About the Author:

Erin Bronn is a writer and homeschooler on the brink of graduation who loves nothing more than to bury her nose in a good book. When she's not reading or writing, you'll probably find her tackling her yearly bucket list, learning about something she finds weirdly fascinating, or otherwise scheming from her home on the shores of Vancouver Island! You can keep up with Erin via her newsletter, Under The Willow, or through Goodreads.

10 Comments


Corrie.S.P.
Corrie.S.P.
Jun 13, 2023

Great post! I loved all the clicks and examples!

I gave you a few chuckles😂

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Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
Jun 13, 2023
Replying to

I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Corrie!

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Saraina Whitney
Saraina Whitney
Jun 05, 2023

Amazing post!!! One of the characters I'm writing right now has similarities to the Ice Queen trope, only I'm trying to keep it from being cliche by showing the reason behind her coldness to people and how she's still has emotions beneath the icy facade. Things do affect her, she's just too scared to show it. *sighs for the poor girl* She's going to learn how to open up, though. There's some hope for her. xDDD


Thank you for writing this post, Erin!

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Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
Jun 05, 2023
Replying to

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! *smiles because I know this charrie* Yes, you're doing fantastic!

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Joelle Stone
Joelle Stone
Jun 04, 2023

I love this! And now I have so many ideas... *smh* XD

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Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
Jun 04, 2023
Replying to

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Lol...I know!

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Lillian Keith
Lillian Keith
Jun 01, 2023

Great tips! Thank you so much for this, Erin!

I also thought Rey, from The Force Awakens, was a pretty good example of a 'tough' girl trope done well. Tough and hardy, but also vulnerable and open to emotions :) Anyway, we definitely need more depth to female characters, and less of the annoying stereotypes (unless someone is writing a parody story and wants to use all the cliche's in story writing lol.)


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Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
Jun 02, 2023
Replying to

I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Lily!

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Unknown member
Jun 01, 2023

Hey, I’m a BC Canadian too! Loved this post! So helpful. I feel like my characters are all sweet and boring 😊

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Kaytlin Phillips
Kaytlin Phillips
Jun 01, 2023
Replying to

I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! I'm sure their not...though I often feel that all my female charries are overly dramatic...lol...I do so much better with boys and my guys is that it's from hanging with my older brothers so much...lol...

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