Stacy's Place on Earth
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Thursday, March 05, 2009:
Holding out for a heroine

I'm reading a book for review by a first-time author, and it's a sweet story, not a lot of action or sex or drama, and that's perfectly okay with me. I don't mind stepping back and just reading a book about ordinary people going about their lives, making connections and falling in love. In fact I kinda like it because it's set in a world I can totally relate to.

But as I'm reading this story, I'm realizing that the heroine is hitting some wrong buttons with me. Not because of anything outrageous or unredeemable, but because she's falling into a stereotypical role that really drives me crazy when I come across it: that of the insecure heroine.

Now I know at some time or another we've all felt insecure, whether it's about our bodies or our jobs or where we fit in. Hell I seem to feel insecure on a daily basis. But there comes a point when you can't let it hold you back, not if you really want something badly enough. And that's hard to believe. People, especially women, are conditioned to believe we're not good enough, despite the fact that you are a mother, wife, daughter, careerwoman, best friend. You act as doctor, chef, maid, chauffeur. You listen to your friends when they have problems and support your significant other. You love your kids unconditionally and would die for them. Yet despite all that, yeah, we do have our moments of weakness and don't think it's good enough.
So when I read a story with a heroine who is very insecure, I try to be open-minded. She's real, not a superhero, and it's normal for her to have doubts. But then it goes on. And on. It totally boggles her mind that the hero would think she's smart and beautiful and amazing. She pushes him away because she can't wrap her head around the idea that he could possibly be attracted to her: she's too fat, too plain, not interesting enough. And at this point I'm getting rather irritated with her.
I've met a lot of wonderful, amazing women who read romance. Some of them are single with interesting careers. Some are married and stay at home to raise their kids. Some are just starting out, in the early twenties. Others have grown children and possibly even grandchildren. Romance readers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, ages. They are funny and smart and fearless and opinionated. What I really love is when I see one of them, who might not fit the public's version of thin and beautiful, show off her stuff. She might be a little heavier, not quite so pretty, but she's interesting and has a naughty sense of humor, and everyone wants to talk to her. She's might have a boyfriend or husband, but maybe not, and hey, she likes it like that. She's confident in who she is and in what she has to say. She has her bad days like anyone else, but she's not shocked when a cute guy asks her out. Instead she might be the one to do the asking. I want to know her. She's the kind of woman I want to read about.
I read my first adult romance when I was twelve, and I know there are a lot of girls today who are that same age that pick up their mom's romances and start reading them. Such an impressionable time in their lives. I worry that they will feel just as unworthy as the heroine and not be able to see beyond to the strength and imagination they themselves possess.
What about you? Do insecure heroines drive you up a wall, or do you think they are an accurate depiction of today's woman and easier to relate to? For those of you who are writers, what type of heroine are you compelled to write and how do you feel about creating a character who doesn't think she's good enough? I'm curious to know what drives an author to write about a female who just doesn't see her worth. Why can't there be more heroines who love who they are and the rest be damned?



  1. A little bit of insecurity doesn't bother me but if it's constant then I agree with you. It gets irritating. But I'd rather read the more quiet heroine rather than the kick ass one. I'm not a kick ass kinda person so I find it very hard to relate to their choices and actually get irritated with some of the choices and situations they get themselves in :). I guess I like to read females that are more like me. A little argumentative and sass is good but too much drives me just as crazy as too much insecurities.

  2. Unfortunately it's not just the books with insecure heroines who shape the way our young people see themselves. It's our society as a whole - we overpay coaches when teachers should get more compensation, we idolize stars who show very few morals, and the list could go on and on.

  3. Great post, Stacy. I don't mind it at first - hey, we're all a little insecure. But, yeah. He likes you. He thinks you're beautiful. You make him hot. So get over yourself.

    At some point, the author needs to realize she's writing escapism for women. We get enough of that when we look in the mirror. Something we can relate to is great, but then MOVE ON. Cause if the heroine doesn't, I keep wondering why the hero doesn't also.

  4. The insecurity bit doesn't really bother me as long as it's not overly done.

    Perhaps because I know that I personally I've doubted myself and my abilities before. I think it's human nature to feel that way. I know some people claim they don't ever feel doubtful or insecure about themselves, but I don't believe that for one minute. Everyone has their insecurities. Some more than others, but like I said, it's what makes us human.

    So, with that said, I agree that a little insecurity is fine by me.

  5. Great post! I wonder if the insecurity was just there to add a bit of conflict. Maybe it helps young girls to read this sort of thing, though. They can see how she had nothing to be insecure about after all! (wishful thinking?)

  6. I really like this post. You've articulated something I've often felt frustrated with but couldn't quite put my finger on. We women get enough pressure from society and ourselves to be perfect without needing it in our fictional escapes. Me, I don't mind some realistic self-doubt, but the woe-is-me, martyr heroine is my nemisis. do not want!

  7. I understand insecurities - been there, done that. And I don't mind reading about them to a point. But if a wonderful man is telling you how wonderful you are...even if you have doubts, why push him away? Revel in the fact that this one awesome soul sees you in a glowing light.

  8. Everyone here has articulated my thoughts so well. A heroine with no insecurities would be almost impossible for me to relate to. On the other hand, a heroine who is constantly consumed by her insecurities would be just as bad. Yes, we all have moment or certain issues over which we have anxiety. It is part of being human. To perpetually dwell in them is unhealthy. This is true of us and the characters in our books.

    Our escapism can have a strong dose of reality to it, but show me a heroine (and hero!) that has insecurities and faces them. Show me a woman who overcomes and is fabulous inspite of, or because of those things she struggles with.

    Real women are multi-faceted, so should our heroines be.

  9. Great post Stacy! I don't mind an insecure heroine because I find her relatable - I have oodles of insecurities. However, you made such a good point in your post:

    But there comes a point when you can't let it hold you back, not if you really want something badly enough.

    So, I'm trying to work on them :) I guess (coming back to the heroine :) that we need to see the heroine develop and grow...because if she can't believe in what the hero sees when he looks at her, how will she believe he truly loves her....and there goes our HEA. Just my two cents' worth :)

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