Ask a Mermaid: I Hate My Heroine, Can This WIP Be Saved?

Ask a Mermaid is a monthly advice column for writers. If we don’t have the answers, we’ll find them for you. Send in your questions to Ask a Mermaid.

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Dear Mermaids,

A horrible thing has happened. I’m halfway through my WIP and I’ve started to hate my heroine. Well, hate may be too strong a word but she sure does annoy me. Can this WIP be saved?

 Sinking in the Deep End

 

Dear Sinking,

First, congratulations on hating your heroine.  No, seriously, I promise I’m not being facetious.  The fact that you are identifying a problem halfway through your WIP is a great tribute to your writing sensory skills.  I don’t know if this is your first manuscript or you have others in your back pocket, but in my case, I finished the entire WIP and sent out submissions before I realized the heroine sucked.  And it’s a lot more difficult to fix a whole manuscript that to go back on something that is not yet finished.

My advice would be to put aside your manuscript and write down the specific reason why you aren’t bonding with her.  Putting it on paper will help cement the problem.  Next, put away your writer cap and take out the reader headgear.  If you purchased this book, why wouldn’t you connect with this heroine.  Write those things down too.  Compare the lists and see if there are matches.  Your lists may be different because when you are writing your focus is different than when you’re simply the reader and trying to get swept away by a story.

Next, go back to your manuscript and highlight where you think things went off track.  Was she unlikable from the beginning or did the writing veer off at some point?  I’m thinking if she’s unlikable from the beginning, it may be because you didn’t fully define her in your own mind.  So when it came time to write her, she may have swayed all over the place.  I know that’s the case with some of my writing.

If all else fails, my last bit of advice is to plagiarize.  No, I don’t mean ACTUALLY plagiarize.  Take your most favorite book ever, the one where the hero and heroine are so real they practically come off the page and start reading it again.  But don’t read as a reader.. read as a writer.  Try to pinpoint why you connect with the heroine and how the author manages to convey that attachment (heck, maybe even put together the same list, but this time, write down why the heroine was great).

Lastly.. if none of this works.. go for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  Extra calories always gets my creativity flowing.

Good luck!

Mermaid Masha Levinson

 

Dear Sinking,

The first awesome bit of news is….YES! Your WIP can not only be saved but it can be made fabulous and riveting. Try this fun exercise that helps me: Set aside some alone time for yourself and your hero. Once you’ve got that, straight up ask him this, “Hey there handsome, so this girl you’re in love with, yeah the totally annoying chick no one but you can stand, what the heck is it that you see in her?” He’s your hero, he won’t let you down. And the second bit of awesome news? It’s my opinion that a prickly, hard to love heroine makes for fireworks when you figure out how to make the rest of us love her. So don’t give up!

Fishy kisses!

Mermaid Carlene Love Flores

 

Dear Sinking,

Of course she can be saved, Deep End. You made her, and you can fix her! Remember, two of the most beloved heroines of all time were not very nice people. Scarlett O’Hara was a conniving, man-stealing, vain, selfish woman. Shanna, in Kathleen Woodiwiss’ novel of the same name, was equally arrogant. Yet, these two heroines are beloved because of their transformative journey.

My advice, figure out what is annoying you. Make a list of those traits and then see what you can do to flesh out and balance your character. Can we forgive Scarlett when we see her heart is broken over Ashley? Do we want to cover our eyes and scream, “No don’t do it,” when she marries Melanie’s brother? Those are the kind of little flaws, equalizers, that keep us reading until we see the heroine become more than what she is at the moment. So, take your heroinethrough those “human” moments and let the reader see what the people in her life cannot — her true heart.

Good luck and don’t give up!

Mermaid Diana Belchase

Ask a Mermaid is a monthly advice column for writers. If we don’t have the answers, we’ll find them for you. Send in your questions to Ask a Mermaid.