Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Making of a Young Adult Heroine

by Traci Hall
June 2012

From Merriam Webster online dictionary – HEROINE
a: a mythological or legendary woman having the qualities of a hero b: a woman admired and emulated for her achievements and qualities
a: the principal female character in a literary or dramatic work b: the central female figure in an event or period

I write young adult stories that are mostly female centered. I love it when girls get to be the ones with the power. Not that they should use such power unwisely…I just want them to have it. It’s fun. I grew up in a world that was riddled with Girls Wear Pink and Boys Wear Blue rules.  Boys are stronger, more capable, worth more money.  Though my father might have thought so, my mother, thankfully, did not. I was encouraged to wear whatever color I wanted. My daughter has chosen a career in the male dominated Navy Aviation Structural Mechanics department and I see an entire generation of girls kicking the rest of the Gender Doors down.  What great heroines there will be to choose from when it comes to writing fiction!

As a reader, I want excitement, drama, or romance, maybe throw in some fear. I want to be sucked into emotion, where the stakes are high, and my heroine has to work for that happy ending.  I have a confession to make: I did not care for Bella in Twilight. (ducking for cover) Let me explain! She fits the description of a heroine, being the principal character in a literary work, but for my personal tastes, I found  Bella to be overly melodramatic.  She waited. She sighed. She cried. I couldn’t identify with her.  However, the brilliant and talented Stephenie Meyer tapped into a market craving teenage angst, and she delivered – the hot, sparkling vampire boyfriend was a bonus!  And the gorgeous werewolf next door? Great drama. The fact that Bella sighed, lost sleep, wasn’t happy, ever, made me want to scream. But Ms. Meyer created the perfect angsty heroine.  I just saw Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman. She did a lot of silent crying, waiting, etc. but the story was good. Typecast heroine?

Hunger Games is an example of the heroine I like best.  The character of Katniss Everdeen is clearly motivated from the beginning. She’s a hunter, she’s a rule breaker, and she loves her youngest sister enough that she volunteers for a death sentence so her sister can be safe. There’s a teasing hint of love unrequited, and a backbone of steel as she tells her mother to be strong. She needs all of these character traits if she is to survive the games.  The stories are amazing. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it – especially if you’ve read the books. The producer/director people did a magnificent job of staying true to Suzanne Collins’s story.

In Zombyre, My Love, I’ve created a character, Lolita, who –unlike Katniss, lol – is no hunter. In fact, there are no living creatures around.  Her world consists of hot, hot days, comet showers, cold nights and curfews in a deserted town that rolls up the streets at sundown. Her parents are infected with the zombie virus, her best friends are infected with the zombie virus – she’s just waiting to get it and die, too. She lives with death shadowing her like a dark cloud.  Yet there is a light within her that shines bright enough to attract a monster. Lolita cries, like Bella, she feels angst, but she also pops the zombie trying to kill her over the head with a candlestick. She’s a survivor.

A heroine doesn’t have to wield a bow and arrow, or cry pretty, silent tears.  What makes a heroine strong is their willingness to take on the enemy, or evil, to protect someone they love, or an idea they believe in with all of their being. Katniss did this, volunteering to take her sister’s place. Lolita combines a sassy mouth with a huge heart, determined to love and live despite the bleak odds. Even angsty Bella shows strength as she struggles to find the good within the monster and justify her love.

There are many, many heroines in our lives, unsung champions. Moms, sisters, daughters, friends. Take a second and give ‘em a hug, a text, let them know you consider them a hero – talk about fun!


Award winning author Traci Hall writes paranormal romances for teens as well as historical romances for adults. She’s co authored a non-fiction book about adoption, and written a coming of age story.  Traci has been interviewed on the radio, web tv, and Fox and Friends. She lives in South Florida with her husband and children, reading, researching and writing.
Book 1 in the Mile Post 42 series : Zombyre, My Love
Book 1 in the Queen’s Guard series: The Queen’s Guard: Violet

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