Workshop 13: A Lady To Love: Turning Your Heroine GMC Into Irresistible ARC
Great heroines do what the reader wouldn’t do, according to author and Abingdon Press editor Ramona Richards in her ACFW Conference workshop A Lady to Love: Turning Your Heroine’s GMC into Irresistible ARC. To discover what would force your heroine to do that thing, there are a couple of tools at your disposal.
This tool helps you understand your heroine’s background, which leads to her motivation. Each character’s chart will contain things that may never appear on the pages of your manuscript but which effect how she responds to situations. Discover her past, what her favorite color is and why. Always ask, “Why?” Discover her self-image, then ask what caused it.
An archetype is not a characteristic. It’s who your character will be no matter what—her original basic personality. It’s also a wonderful tool to discover how to torture your heroine.
There are eight archetypes:
- Spunky Kid: Gutsy and loyal to the end. Example: Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle.
- Crusader: A dedicated fighter, loyal, meets a commitment no matter what. Example: Diana Rigg in The Avengers.
- Waif: The original damsel in distress. Example: Judy Garland (right) in The Wizard of Oz.
- Librarian: Controlled, clever, and restrained. Example: Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone.
- Nurturer: Nourishes the spirit, is serene, not easily ruffled. Example: Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey.
- Boss: Ambition in heels, focuses on success no matter the cost. Example: Annette Bening in American Beauty.
- Seductress: An enchantress who gets her way. This archetype doesn’t always link to sex. Example: Vivian Leigh in Gone With the Wind.
- Free Spirit: The eternal optimist, marches to her own drum. Example: Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy or Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.
Once you discover your heroine’s basic archetype, you can add personality traits, like a funny crusader. Some heroines, Richard said, embody two archetypes. If the Nurturer is also the Boss, you get the mom from hell. When the archetype is maimed or stressed through conflict, they change or act differently.
Once you discover your heroine’s personality and archetype, give her personality layers. Make her fallible with growth potential. Some heroines have humor in their souls. They respond to tragedy irreverently. If that’s your heroine, let it happen, but make sure she stays in character. Don’t let her act or react out of character.
To practice: Watch movies or TV shows and break down the characters to find their personality layers. Cinderella was strong and a survivor. Who else could sing after being displaced in her own home and turned into a scullery maid for her stepfamily?
Discovering your heroine’s background and core personality opens the doors to conflict—and that’s when the fun begins.