This is part 2 in a series called The Epic Guide to Character Creation. In this part I will show you different heroine archetypes. I will provide examples of characters from both literature and movies/TV-series to provide you with an overall understanding of fictional characters.
Note: I have divided heroines and heroes into two different posts because the archetypes for these characters are somewhat different. I will go through hero archetypes in a post next week, but for now I’ll focus on heroines. Let’s get started:
Who is the Heroine?
The heroine of a story is also known as the protagonist. The heroine is the main character of a story.
An important thing to note is that the heroine (the protagonist) doesn’t have to be the point-of-view character, even though it is fairly common. The Great Gatsby is a novel where the protagonist (Jay Gatsby) isn’t the point-of-view character.
Another important thing to note is that you can, successfully, have more than one heroic character in your story. It’s not common, but consider The Lord of the Rings which contain multiple heroic characters.
A lot of your story’s focus will lie on your heroine, so make sure you craft a complex and relatable character that the reader will love. With that said, let’s take a look at some guidelines for crafting a heroine.
Categorizing the Heroine
If you want to know more about the categories that follow, you can read the first post in this Epic Guide to Character Creation-series: The Epic Guide to Character Creation, Part 1: Categorizing Your Characters
Dynamic or Static, Round or Flat? You should craft a dynamic heroine because it’s the heroine’s experience and emotional journey that will be presented to your reader.
Your heroine should also be a round character because she is the character the reader will spend most time with. To make sure your story is a worthwhile read for the reader, you need to make sure that he/she will get to know your heroine.
Black, White or Grey? Your heroine can range from everything between a white and a grey character.
You can craft a purely noble heroine (white) the way many of the classic protagonists are (as well as many of the female characters in these classic novels). Your heroine can also be good but have a tendency to make questionable decisions (which is more to the grey side).
Your heroine can also take the purely grey side, and by doing this you will thereby craft an antihero (which I will cover in a later post in this Epic Guide to Character Creation-series).
The different heroine archetypes, and some examples to these, are:
- The Boss — Elizabeth in Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age
- The Leader — Leia in Star Wars, Daenerys Targaryen in A Song of Ice and Fire
- The Nurturer — Aibileen Clark in The Help, Mary Poppins
- The Professor — Nancy Drew
- The Rebel — Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice
- The Seductress — Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl
- The Warrior — Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings, Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess, Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Descriptions of the Heroine Archetypes
Here are a few notes on what signifies the different heroine archetypes.
This heroine archetype is confident, competitive, and often arrogant. The boss will not hesitate to manipulate circumstances as a way to get what she wants because she wants to win at all costs. If someone gets in her way, or tries to obstruct her path, she will find some way to remove them.
This heroine archetype is active, decisive, and strong-willed. The leader is a woman who grabs control of situations when it’s possible. She likes challenges and is often a born conqueror or leader. The leader can also be dominating and unsympathetic.
This heroine archetype is self-sacrificing, serene, and is often and ideal mother or friend. The nurturer need to be needed and often compromises so that she doesn’t hurt someone else’s feelings. She puts the needs of the people she loves before her own.
This heroine archetype is analytical, an expert in her field/fields (whatever that might be), and carry a great intellect. She is often used to being the smartest person in the room. The professor can have flaws that are connected to communication or social events, and she might be more introverted than extroverted and thus be somewhat absent-minded.
This heroine archetype can be a revolutionary, troublemaker, outlaw, and reformer. She may want to change the way people look at the world, have a strong pull towards righting wrongs, believe that what she is fighting for is more important than what the authority believes, and so on. The rebel is often opposing some ruling force.
This heroine archetype is charming and assertive. The seductress often hides her true desires and motives. She often has a sensual smile and a hypnotizing power over others. She may be strong and clever as well as cynical, mysterious and manipulative.
This heroine archetype is noble, tenacious, and a protector. The warrior is the defender of the weak. She believes that evil can’t go unpunished and is therefore compelled to see that justice is done. The warrior can also be sanctimonious and merciless with her enemies.
How to Choose a Protagonist
Choosing your protagonist is one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make in the process of crafting your story. However, there are some guidelines that may help you along the way.
It’s obvious that the first guideline is to have a protagonist that the reader can connect with. This is crucial if you want to draw the reader into your story and have him/her finish it.
Your protagonist needs to be likable or intriguing in some way or another for the reader to be hooked (no matter which archetype your protagonist is connected to).
Your heroine should be admirable — in her goals and motivations as well as personality. The reader need to see that the protagonist cares about the consequences of her actions.
It’s also helpful to have your ideal reader in mind when choosing your protagonist. Your ideal reader is the person who will most likely read your story. This ideal person could be based on gender, age, interests, what beliefs he/she have, etc.
With this ideal reader in mind, what type of character would he/she connect with? What type of character would he/she find intriguing? Should the protagonist have the same beliefs or interests as the ideal reader? Should the protagonist be about the same age and be of the same gender as the reader? All of these things can help you craft a protagonist that your ideal reader will connect with.
It is important that your protagonist take action and advance the plot of your story. Don’t let your heroine sit at home and wait for things to happen to her, make her the driving force.
Your protagonist should face conflict throughout the story, so you need to craft a strong and independent heroine in order for her to pose as a viable threat to your antagonist. You need to craft a protagonist that can stand up to your antagonist’s actions.
Next week I’ll publish a post about hero archetypes. If you’re interested, make sure to come back here next Tuesday. Until then, have a great week.
What type of heroines do you enjoy crafting? What type of heroine archetypes do you enjoy reading/watching?
If you want to read more about heroine archetypes there is a book called The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes which dissect hero and heroine archetypes and also which archetypes that can interact with each other in pairs.