Monday, August 04, 2008

Upping the Anti

I wrote about heroines the other day, but I think the anti-heroine deserves her due too.

As the moderator of a romance-writing book club (who knew there was such a thing?) opined: "I think the anti-heroine is a much less likely character in romance than the anti-hero for two reasons. (1) we want to be friends with the heroine, and that's tougher if she's got the hard edges of an anti-heroine. (2) we do love to redeem the bad boy, but we're more likely to think of a bad girl as a bitch."

Of course, these are romance writers and readers. My limited experience of romance novels tells me that generally the characters are fairly predictable and hew closely to stereotypes - it's part of what makes them appealing. The lead female character may be a spitfire, but it's just because the right man hasn't come along to melt her heart yet.

Generally, that's true of bad girls in chick lit too - think Samantha in Sex and the City. She was always my favorite character - I found Carrie's dithering maddening - but I wonder if she would have been less so if she had no soft edges at all: no concern for her friends, no vulnerability. Thus the introduction of cancer into her storyline. Nothing like baldness to make a girl sympathetic!

Men, of course, love them some bitch. But that's only because they think the right man hasn't come along to melt her heart yet.

Interesting that it's never occurred to me to write a book that wasn't intended for a female audience. I guess it's the market I know best and the one my writing style seems most suited to. And women buy more books, watch more daytime TV.

That's the combination that's made Oprah's Book Club so powerful: they can relate to victim heroines like Dolores Price in Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, and root for them.

And ultimately I suppose I want people to like my protagoniste. But making her a promiscuous heartbreaker with a me-first attitude wouldn't be such a bad thing, as long as eventually she sees the error of her ways, most likely when the right man comes along to melt her heart.

Especially if he comes along, she sends him away (because she's a promiscuous heartbreaker with a me-first attitude), and then she finds him again.

Then again, an interesting discussion on this very smart blog points out that an anti-hero is "not a traditional hero" (which generally applies to women) and "possesses character traits that are antithetical to heroism" (which may or may not).

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