RSS Feed Print
What makes a good urban fantasy heroine?
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012 2:53 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

Urban fantasy heroines are often hybrid creatures of emotion and strength, magic and ass-kicking prowess. Is there a recipe for success? If you write urban fantasy, feel free to dwell on your own writing and share your insight... If you are an urban fantasy reader, well, who are your favorite heroines and WHY?
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012 11:14 PM

I’m neither an urban fantasy romance reader nor writer, though I do write romantic fantasy, and most happens to be set in urban areas. But I’m responding because it seems to me that, subject to the norms of any genre, any protagonist must first, like any good sales person, sell themselves. It doesn’t matter if they’re going to kick ass, or be a behind the scenes manipulator, they need to sell the reader on themselves within the first three pages, which is the average reader’s maximum sample read in a bookstore before saying yes or putting a given book back. Damn little plot will have passed, and we won’t know the character or the situation all that well in that time. But still, we need to change mild curiosity into active interest before the reader turns to someone else.


• The protagonist needs to be active. No info-dumps of background. It’s their story, and it’s about what’s happening to them, not what happened to them. So focus on the fleeting moment each character calls now.

• Give them a goal and make the reader know what it is. That way when something interferes with their plans we recognize that there’s a problem without being told.

• Make the reader know what the character is paying attention to, and what it means to them—not what you see them doing (or force them to do because the plot needs it to happen, which is worse)—so we know what they’re trying to accomplish and want to know how it comes out.

• Give your protagonist a hard time. Toss a body through the ceiling. Embarrass her. Put her into the deep end of the pool and tie weights to her toes. Let her escape that only to find a tiger waiting on shore. Make the reader worry. Don't make her say, "Oh shit!" make the reader say it.

• Make the reader know who she is (as a person, not as a label or name), where she is in time and space, and what’s going on. That way we understand why she does things. But don’t report that, make the reader learn it through context. Example:

   “An errant gust brought a view of pipestem thighs peppered with Goosebumps.”
Twelve words that tell you it’s both windy and chill; that the speaker is fairly close to the female being described; that she’s wearing a lightweight skirt—probably short; that she’s not dressed for the weather; and that the speaker doesn’t find her sexually attractive. We even know she’s not sitting primly—legs closed—because her thighs become visible. And best of all, the reader deduces all these things and feels pride at being so observant.

• Make your character larger then life. Give her habits and tics. Have her interrupt others and disagree. Make her hesitate and rephrase. Make her path bumpy, not smooth.

My point is that if you make her interesting, the story is secondary. It’s necessary, and the twists and turns add zest, but first, and throughout, if we don’t find her—not the plot and the gimmicks, but your protagonist—interesting enough to want to follow around, we won’t.

What I’m saying is to focus on the writing, and on her emotional landscape because there’s where your story lies, in the human heart.
- - - - - -
Sorry for the lecture, but it’s just how I am.   

Timothy Maguire
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013 4:48 PM
Joined: 8/13/2011
Posts: 272

Hmm. The problem here is that practically every character element I can think of that I like in an urban fantasy heroine begins with 'not'? I think I've ready one too many bad/ generic books recently.

Here's a few ideas:

Isolated/ Independent: This applies for both halve of the gender war, but I always find that urban fantasy characters work best when they're stuck working on the outside. This works best when they can make this into a strength, taking options more establishment characters might not think of.

Sane about relationships: Four words: Never-ending love triangle. No thanks. Why is it that male urban fantasy characters just seem to be bad at long relationships while female characters always seem to be in love triangles? It's gotten to the point that when I see one good guy and one bad boy in the plot that I roll my eyes and close the book. Can we start getting heroines that can make a decision?

Unique perspective: Related to my first point, it's always nice to have a character who sees the world differently to the people she's up against and nominally allied to. It tends to create more unusual solutions to the problems they face.

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013 6:27 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

I suggest reading Zoo City by Lauren Beukes for Zinzi December; Blackbirds and Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig for Miriam Black; and The Rook by Daniel O'Malley for Myfawny Thomas. 

Isolated and independent. Check.
No love triangles. Check.
Self-aware. Check.
Unique perspective. Double check.

As a woman, I approve.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013 5:24 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

My favorite UF heroine is Stef Mimosa, Require:Cookie series. (shameless promotion of a person who has become a friend since i started reading)   http://www.amazon.com/Mirrorfall-Episode-Require-Cookie-ebook/dp/B009P0UIAI/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357943002&sr=1-4&keywords=require+cookie

Totally screwed up, physically weak hacker girl. Honestly just survives so that the world can keep torturing her, but still carries through and does what needs to be done, no matter how hurt and afraid she is.  

Jump to different Forum...