We open on a distressed young woman, her heart racing with fear, her eyes welling with tears, her body racked with exhaustion from the constant emotional turmoil she faces. Her life is a struggle, and she has no idea when or if her prayers will ever be answered. She cries. A lot.
Okay, readers. How long do you give her before you tell her to get over it? One chapter? Five chapters? Stick with her until the end of her journey?
In one of my novels, a romantic suspense, my main character finds herself in a situation that is so emotional, so frightening and so frustrating, that her outlook for a good portion of the book is bleak, to say the least. She fights feelings of depression with every ounce of strength she can muster, yet isn’t very successful for much of the story. She’s a real damsel in distress, and just like in any good romance, a hero will appear to help her out, but not before she’s gone to some really dark places within herself.
But it’s a normal, human reaction. Her setting and issues really give her a great excuse. Her circumstances are completely out of her control, and she feels lost. In fact, I think that her reaction to the horror, anger, and frustration is far better than my own would be, if I found myself in the same situation.
But does a reader want to read a story about a girl who is truly suffering, even if her situation calls for it? Can she still be classified as a heroine if she spends much of her time struggling against her own emotions?
The concern is not whether or not the reader will permit the leading lady to have her emotions, because they will immediately recognize the truth and organic nature of them.
The concern is whether or not the reader will stick with the emotional roller-coaster that the story presents in order to find out whether or not our heroine is able to battle her circumstances to achieve her happy ending.
I recently made a few edits to my manuscript because I wanted my main character to be a bit stronger. Even though I know how strong she is, I worried that the reader would find her to be too weepy. I wanted her to cry just little less, and fight against her situation a little more, even if that meant I replaced a few tears with anger.
Anger seems a more powerful emotion than weeping fear, and therefore the reader would find her to be someone who refused to accept her situation, even though I had already written her to be a character of great faith (although desperate for answers).
Depression is powerful. Conveying those emotions of hopelessness are necessary for a good part of the story, for the situation truly calls for it. But deep inside her, even when she can’t see it, our leading lady is truly strong enough to become a hero.
Share with me: What do you think about characters who delve deeply into emotions? When the story calls for it, are you willing to stick with it until the end to see if that happy ending is possible? Or do you prefer your heroines to be just that, strong heroines from page one, with only slight vulnerabilities?