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.

About Avery Flynn

Writer. Smart Ass. Lover of Chocolate. Bringing steamy romance with a twist of mystery to the masses, one hot book at a time.

16 thoughts on “Ask a Mermaid: I Hate My Heroine, Can This WIP Be Saved?

  1. I don’t think Diane Gaston will mind if I share with you that, one of her first regencies, “The Mysterious Miss M” (which won a Golden Heart) started off like that. We in the critique group asked her, Why should we care about this heroine? What about her would make us want to continue reading? Do you think that the way she’s acting is something that entices the reader to read more? Diane, being a consummate professional, thought about all those questions and turned her heroine into someone you wanted to root for, someone you really care about! And won a Golden Heart and subsequently published her book, with 14 books published now and more on the way.

  2. Can this heroine be saved? What perfect timing! I just finished writing a proposal with a heroine who refused to leap off the page for me. Everything was there–conflict, heart ache, goals, motivation, but she came off as stale as yesterday’s news. The hero’s POV scenes–practically flew from my fingers. Hers? Each word was torture. I knew, knew, knew something was wrong with her, but didn’t know how to fix her. Thanks to the advice in this column, I think I can!

  3. This is a most incredible website. I thank Willa Blair for suggesting I visit. My greatest thanks to all of you who contribute to this site.

  4. First, thanks for the shout-out, Marilyn. This is a great place to hang out! The Mermaids are friendly and wise beyond their years.

    Second – another idea. Figure out your heroine’s most annoying traits, then find a way to add some opposite traits. You’re not going for milquetoast medium, but for internal conflict within her, and eventually balance.

  5. Love this post, and the insights from all three of the Mermaids sharing their thoughts here. And yeah, I am in that boat of not quite hating the girl, but jeez, could she be more practical? But I’m not here to grip because I’m going to try some of these ideas and see if my gal can get herself together:)…

    Thanks Avery for this concept – it’s a winner.

  6. Hi all! Thanks for giving me the chance to chime in, Avery. The pond is such a great place to share and learn. And have fun. 😉 Good luck to “Sinking” and it would be cool to hear back and see how things turn out with that diamond in the rough heroine of hers 😉

  7. Thanks for letting us throw our .01 cents into the Mermaid wadding pool. I’ll speak for myself here, but if Sinking (or anyone) has ideas on what worked and what didn’t, grab that fishing pole and toss some bait our way. I’m always on the lookout for a new way to solve problems.. ’cause I tell you, sometimes this writing business feels like an uphill salmon swim. Good luck to everyone!

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