The most frequent comment I get from my writing teacher is, “Aren’t romance heroines supposed to be sympathetic?”
It’s a hard thing to nut out, because, on the one hand, yes. But I do so love a bitchy/cold/unpleasant heroine who gets her just deserts (oh poor her, she has to be undone by love). So how to write this, without losing reader sympathies altogether?
For me as a reader, I prefer her to be all the way bad, because I know, because of the genre, that she is going to change. This creates enough tension for me to want to read on and see how exactly that happens.
Two heroine’s I’ve read recently who’ve inspired this post:
Sabine from Kiss of a Demon King. She’s an evil sorceress and she follows through. So how does Kresley Cole keep the reader on her side and reading? Firstly, she’s entertaining. Because she’s not trying to come across as good, she cracks open the boring “good” hero, and we get some sparks. Secondly, we’re made aware that she’s an unreliable narrator, i.e. she thinks she’s heartless, but we know why, and we are given the tiniest glimpses that she doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Thirdly, there is one person on earth she loves before herself.
Rachel from Dream a Little Dream. She’s broke and has nothing in the world but her tiny 5-year-old son who keeps asking “Are we going to die now?” Things get really bad, and then they get a whole lot worse, and she somehow keeps going. All she is is her need to survive. Again here, there is one person on earth she loves more than her own life, that we see her do anything for. There’s also admiration for how she continues in the face of absolute desperation.
I can’t stand wussy writers who write a bad character, but you never really see them do anything heinous. These heroine’s are so brilliant because they are absolute in what they need to do to survive.