Character Development : 5 Questions to Ask Your Heroine
5 Questions to Ask Your Heroine
Stop treating your heroine like she is a byline in someone else’s story. Take the time to make her as real on the page as she is in your head. A strong heroine doesn’t just benefit your hero, but improves the depth of the story. If you aren’t sure where to start with identifying just who your heroine is then this post is just for you!
Who is your heroine?
I’m not just talking about her name. Who is she? An entrepreneur? A nurse? Does she generally hate chocolate, but love truffles? Was she voted most likely to succeed in high school? Or, was she a wallflower who nobody knew? These seemingly benign questions all add up to the person that is your heroine. Most likely, you already have an general scope of your heroine. It is still important to pause in your writing, and explore her further.
Knowing who your heroine is creates the internal identity that will dictate her actions in your story. If she is the shy demure type, she will need a strong catalyst to draw out her aggressive side. If she is ambitious and driven, a traumatic event will likely be what it takes to redirect her priorities.
Answer the question as fully as you can. Add quirks (scrunches her nose when she takes off her glasses), include personality words ( funny, endearing, infectious laughter), and also include how she responds to people she cares about (always brings a coffee for her work bestie). These specifics give your readers something to relate to, and give your heroine flesh.
What does your heroine need?
The natural question here for most people is what does your heroine want. That’s a valid question, and you should know the answer to it as well. What your heroine wants will give her some motivation to complete her arc. It is what she needs that will grow her. You’ve read stories where heroines refuse to develop because they are selfish or singular minded. You remember that frustration. At the base of this problem is that a heroine who doesn’t have a deeper driving force will not stop outside of her own comfort to evolve.
Yes, what your heroine wants is important, but what she needs will challenge her identity and her world.
So, let’s dive into that. Your heroine may want to buy a house to prevent herself from ever being homeless again. What she needs though, is to gain financial security for herself. In this scenario, financial security could mean not only buying a house, but also never being hungry or forced to depend on anyone else. That kind of power, opens a heroine up to be her truest self. Remember, the need is greater than the want. The want changes one thing, but the need changes everything. Don’t be afraid to dive into your heroine. You are the only one who can tell her story.
What is the urgency? What is your heroine’s deadline?
These questions repeat themselves across the board of character development. Characters, like us, need a motivating force to keep them on task. Deadlines are used to create tension, and to provide a setup for obstacles that your character will face.
Your deadline could be a specific time, but it could also be an event. Determine what brings the most pressure on your character to act, then write in a deadline that forces your character to grow. Your deadline should not be arbitrary. It should have meaning and consequences for your heroine. If she doesn’t hit her deadline, show the blow back. Don’t hide the repercussions. Your heroine’s experiences are your readers experiences. Don’t be ashamed about hurting their feelings.
Who does your heroine become once she makes her choice?
Whether she gets what she needs or gets what she wants, something will change internally for your heroine. What is that change? Does beating cancer make her stronger, fearless or does it make her more afraid than ever. Does letting go of the love of her life teach her to value herself more or does it leave her love starved and available to anyone. These are extremes, and the pendulum does not have to swing that far. It should swing though.
Your character is going to be changed by the choices she makes. Take the time to imagine your best case and your worst case scenario here. When the day comes and you’ve exhausted all your challenges, you will know who your heroine is and who she will be next.
Does your heroine want a savior?
Not every damsel in distress wants a knight on a white horse to swoop in and save them. Not every damsel is in distress. You have a choice to make here, and if you make the wrong one your readers will spot it immediately. Decide. Is your heroine the type who wants someone else to come in and save her or not?
Once you know the answer, it is important that you lay the groundwork within your story. Your heroine may not ever say out loud that she wants someone to save the day, but her internal dialogue may suggest she needs a little help. If that isn’t the case. If she is strong enough to save herself, then your catalyst must draw that out of her. Her strength could be the change that happens after she makes the major choice.
Treat your heroine as important and she will work hard to polish any rough edges in your novel. Write the details down as an overview to your character profile, but don’t be afraid to change them when needed. The idea is to make your writing process smoother. Edit to fit your needs.
What are some other things you ask your heroine before writing her story? Comment below.