Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chewing Bubblegum and...

So yeah. It's the era of the "kick-ass heroine" in Romancelandia. From twenty years ago, when I started reading my mom's old Harlequin Presents, the genre has expanded to welcome a more diverse set of characteristics in the female leads. One of which is the aptly-termed "kick-ass heroine."

Writing a kick-ass heroine means walking a fine line between toughness and vulnerability. The kick-ass heroine by nature has her shit together and must be a functional being in order to have the wherewithal to kick the asses that need kicking. But since she is part of a story, and story is character and conflict, she must have room for some sort of character arc.

In spite of the large number of book covers that would suggest otherwise, this heroine does not have to be a supernatural butt-whupper to be kick-ass. Nor does she need to know eight ways to break a man in half using only her right thumb and an emery board picked up from a "Re-elect Our Mayor" booth at a county fair. As a reader, those kinds of heroines are interesting in their own ways, but do not make the sum total of what makes a heroine kick-ass. As a reader, I have a broader definition, and as a writer, I aim to explore the boundaries of that definition.

Her job--or her destiny--does not a kick-ass make. Sure, Chosen Ones are entertaining to read about, because they have all this great power and their lives are still emotional messes. But try finding a kickass heroine who's twenty pounds overweight and drives a minivan with a bad muffler--but who knows exactly how to get the car fixed on time and under budget. Focusing on kick-ass as a function of job or circumstance leaves a great portion of territory unexplored.

Kickass is a state of mind.

6 comments:

Angela Verdenius said...

I totally agree. Kick ass is a state of mind. Strength of body is fine, but you need a canny brain behind it!

Angela

Lynda K. Scott said...

Loved this line "Nor does she need to know eight ways to break a man in half using only her right thumb and an emery board picked up from a "Re-elect Our Mayor" booth at a county fair."

So true! A kick-ass heroine, as you point out, has the need to get the job done. And does it.

Xandra Gregory said...

I think it's too easy for writers to bestow a bunch of martial arts or special superpowers and call that "kick-ass" when there's so much more to it. And so many more creative ways to do it, too!

Savanna Kougar said...

I love that line toos! "Nor does she need to know eight ways to break a man in half using only her right thumb and an emery board picked up from a "Re-elect Our Mayor" booth at a county fair."
It is a state of mind. And it does take a certain kick-ass attitude just survive in these contemporary times, which is just as valuable as an all-powerful heroine.
I think, from an analytical perspective, one reason 'extreme' kick-ass heroines are popular these days, is because so many folks feel stuck behind the eightball of life itself.

Skylar Masey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skylar Masey said...

I think to make your kick-ass woman work she has to have that self-assurance and attitude herself without relying on a super power. Though that extra power can either support her inner ability, or it can be used to showcase that inner ability by creating problems (think about bad luck, telling the truth without a filter, casting bad spells).