Selah March

August 9, 2006

Trainwrecks Need Love, Too

Filed under: Uncategorized — Selah March @ 11:47 am

How initially likable do we need our protagonists to be?

Does it depend on genre? Can the hero of a thriller be a bastard? (That’s a rhetorical question — of course he can. Not sure everyone would call him a “hero” in the true sense of the word, though.) But can the heroine of a romance be a bitch?

I’ve heard some folks say that the romance heroine is just a placeholder for the female reader, and so bitchy protags don’t work. Are off-putting. Won’t engage the reader, won’t let her put herself in that place where she can be kissed and fondled and pined over by the hero.

I think, in the case of the old-fashioned Harl Presents series stories, that’s true enough. I read batches of ’em in my early teens, and can recall the covers and titles and heroes, and what the heroes did and said, and what jobs they held, and how the heroes behaved in the climactic love scenes and pretty much everything, you’ll note, except…a blessed thing about the heroines, who all seem to fade into a fog of “not too bright and easily aroused to passions they didn’t understand.”

All of that blather is leading up to this: I wrote a novella (see pretty cover above, and check here if you’re interested in reading a blurb or excerpt) and that novella is about to be published by Amber Quill Press — my longest released work to date. (One of these days, I might actually get a whole novel out there. Don’t hold your collective breath or anything.)

Anyway the protagonist of this novella is…well, she’s…she starts out…sort of…difficult. Prickly. Hard to get along with. Bit of a chip on her shoulder, if you know what I mean. One of my crit partners described the experience of the first couple chapters: “…reading in horrified fascination, because she’s just such a trainwreck.”

In addition, there’s some stuff in my protag’s past? Well, one thing, in particular. Let’s just say she’s not proud of it, nor should she be. But she’s working toward redemption — really she is. It’s just a lot harder than she thought.

I’m taking a chance with this one. Submitting it for a review at Romantic Times (should run in December). If I catch the wrong reviewer — someone who likes her heroines staunchly heroic, with nary an unkind word, an uncharitable thought or a sexual impulse prior to meeting the hero — I’m sunk.

So. How DO you feel about initially hard-to-like characters working toward redemption? Can you tolerate letting the protag rub you the wrong way at first? Do you have the patience to let characters grow on you?

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