Editors and readers keep saying they want kick-ass heroines. But what’s the definition of kick-ass? Someone who carries a badge and a gun? As much I love cop or special agent heroines who hold their own in a fight, it can mean more. Or less.
Oh yes, I personally know women soldiers and women cops. They are heroic. And they’re great role models. But most times I want to read someone I can relate to, someone more like me. A heroine facing situations that I might face. Or that my mother or grandmother or sister or niece or best friend must overcome.
I love reading about the heroine who gets up every day and faces down regular drudgery and still comes out of it strong and their head held high. Someone who deals with the family member who is a real downer and manages not let that person’s sniping get under their skin. Day after day. Week after week. Or who, despite opposition, stands up to a familial bully and tells them “that’s enough.” The woman who has to deal with the public anywhere, be it at a store or a restaurant or the DMV, because they know they need to provide for their family even if it meant having to give up their dreams of college, or dancing or music, or whatever. Who gets up at the alarm and heads to work even if they’ve been up half the night with a puking kid, or maybe even when they’ve been sick. Maybe it’s to go after her dream and do all of the above while going to night school, or giving up the comforts of life to get that degree. Or maybe it’s just to put food on the table and a roof over their head.
In other words, me. Or you. Or your best friend.
Normal people. Or whatever passes for normal these days.
I know a lot of people like to read romances that involve rich men who spirit them away to a life of luxury, with servants and villas, with lives where they’ll have nannies to hand the kids off to, and never have a financial worry again. Because they’ve had enough of all the drudgery I’ve listed above. And I admit, I like to read those books on occasion too. But on those days when I don’t feel like getting out of bed, when life is just too tough, sometimes I like reading about someone who got out of bed and took on the world even when they didn’t want to. And yes, when they slip up and have trouble letting go of the past, I understand them. When the heroine realizes that maybe they’re the cause of their own problems or that they need to put their past behind them or give up the nasty friend/family relation/bad job/whatever and move on, I stand up and cheer. Or I take mental notes the next time I want to pull the blankets up over my head and hide away.
Because some days it takes guts just to get out of that bed and put one foot in front of the other, or let go of a past hurt. And reading about how those heroines overcome their issues makes me want to get out of bed and carry on too.