Who is the perfect suspense heroine? A courageous woman? A timid woman? A strong woman? A fragile woman? A confident woman? A struggling woman?
When I first met my husband, twenty –two years ago, I was a strong, lithe, hard core camping woman who could carry a Duluth pack and a canoe alone on a portage. I thought I was sooooo tough. In our group of fellow guides, there was a girl who loved asking the guys to carry things for her. “I’m a girl, I can’t lift heavy things!” she’d say and I’d roll my eyes. Never, I vowed, would I ask a man to carry things for me.
Then came the day when I was trying to carry a baby, a toddler, our carryon, a diaper bag and my purse. My husband said, in frustration – why don’t you let me help you? Sheesh, you don’t have to do it alone!
I don’t? It took me more strength, more heroism to hand over my bag than to carry it myself.
A revolutionary thought for me, but not, say, for my sister-in-law who loves having my brother help her. After all, isn’t that what husbands are for? But when she had to rise to the occasion and fend for herself, she became a heroine.
The fact is, all types of women can be a suspense heroine, as long as they – or the story — possesses two basic ingredients.
Regardless of who your heroine is, the key to convincing her to jump into action is to make the situation, or even that propels her into the suspense plot personal. Unlike a hero, who can be propelled into action by a Noble Cause, our heroine needs to have a personal element to the plot. Not that we don’t care about the big, noble things in life, but the fact is, woman are always pursing a noble cause. Taking care of their families, responding to the needs of society. Making the world a better place (now, I’m not saying that men don’t’ do this, but women are naturally nurturing, which means we already have a lot of noble things to fight for in our lives. Why would we drop those things and pursue something else?
When it becomes personal.
Let’s consider our heroine in Eagle Eye. Rachel Holloman is a single mom, working to support her son. It’s with great angst that she has to send him on a field trip to Washington D.C. without her (although with his school class), but a gal’s gotta work. She’s already involved in a noble cause – taking care of her son by being a responsible parent.
However, she’s launched out of this noble cause and into the plot when an unknown female caller asks her if she would risk her life for her son. Rachel then sees her son’s image displayed on a digital sign and she is told by the voice that his train will be derailed if she doesn’t comply. She realizes someone is watching him, and when the female voice calls back and demands she get into a car and wait at the corner, she does it, for fear of her son’s life.
The personal “Push” into the plot moves our heroine forward.
Let’s look at The Bourne Identity. Our heroine, Marie, needs cash. Fresh out of a visa to travel to America, and without a job, when our hero, Jason shows up and offers her $10,000 to drive her to Paris, she agrees. However, none of this becomes personal until she drives him to his flat, watches him kill a would-be assassin and then realizes that her picture is being flashed around as a suspect, with Jason, who banged up a few people in the Zurich embassy. Suddenly, she’s in trouble, and she has a choice – stick with a man who has just saved her life, or take her chances with the government (who has treated her unfairly and without regard when considering her visa application.) Although Marie isn’t exactly involved in anything, noble, she doesn’t particularly want to find herself running. Still, the personal nature of the photograph propels her to stay with Jason Bourne…and pushes her into the suspense plot.
In my book Expect the Sunrise, Andee MacLeod is a bush pilot whose plane has suddenly crashed. Of course she feels responsible for the lives of her passengers. But, among them is her best friend, Sarah, who has suffered a head injury. As Sarah worsens, the urgency to getting her to medical attention increases, as well as the personal push on Andee to move forward into the suspense plot. Against her better judgment, she leads the passengers on a dangerous trek through Alaska in hopes of saving Sarah.
How have you made your story personal to your heroine? If you haven’t, perhaps they don’t have the push they need to jump into your plot. Ask your heroine – what would make you leave your current noble cause/life to risk your own on a dangerous quest? Or, more simply…what would you die for? The answer is the personal push you’re looking for.
Stop by tomorrow and we’ll continue our discussion on Creating your Perfect Suspense Heroine! And if you’re around tonight at 7-8pm CST, join us at the MBT Monday Night chat. Go to www.mybooktherapy.ning.com, sign in and join us!
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