The ExPat Returneth

Friday, January 25, 2013

Risk Taking Heroines

Last year Author Sherry Isaac asked me to write a piece on my favorite heroines. I love Sherry's Wildflowers blog. Her writing is beautiful and poetic, but grounded in reality. My writing waves at hers from the other side of the tracks, but I'm an "other side of the tracks" writer. Hope you enjoy my take on Risk Taking Heroines first posted for Sherry Isaac.

When I begin playing around with a new story idea, I start with a “what if” scenario, but then immediately begin imagining my heroine. My heroines come from varied backgrounds, look and speak differently, but they all have one thing in common. They are risk takers. In fact, all my favorite heroines in books, movies, and musicals (Yes, musical!) are risk takers. And I didn’t even realize this until I sat down to write about my favorite heroines. Huh.

But did I hear you say, aren’t all heroines risk takers? And I’d say, no. I don’t count the gals who are thrown into a situation and deal with it the best they can. I’m talking about the girls who take the bull by the horns and play offense. 

Now I’m a fan of Jane Austen. She writes a great love story. PERSUASION is probably my favorite. I swoon for Captain Wentworth and I love Anne, but she will never make my heroine list because she’s not a risk taker. Our heart breaks for her because she’s so full of self-sacrifice, but there are times when you want to slap her. 

In comparison, Jane of JANE EYRE is a risk taker. She doesn’t have much choice in her early life, but I love how crabby she is about her circumstances as an orphan. She gives her horrible relatives the nineteenth century version of the Forget You. She’s willing to risk her heart with Mr. Rochester, seek the truth about his (Spoiler Alert) crazy wife in the attic, and then dump him for having a crazy wife in the attic. And then return when he’s at his worst (and crazy wife is dead). Risk taker. Love that Jane. 

Lucy from the LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE (and other Narnia tales). Does she flinch at the sight of another world through a cupboard? Maybe a little, but not enough to stop her from following and helping the fawn and dragging her siblings back to save Narnia from the evil White Witch. Named my daughter for her.

Honor Harris from THE KING’S GENERAL by Daphne du Maurier. She’s a foolish risk taker as a teen lover to Richard Grenville. She stands up to his nasty sister Gartred, walks for miles in the middle of the night to tell him she’s supposed to marry someone else, and has no problem making out with him after getting sick from roasted swan at a party. That takes guts. And then turns Richard down when she becomes crippled. She’s so prideful. Later, she’s willing to face down soldiers (to the detriment of her relatives) to hide Richard’s son and Richard. And in the end, she’s willing to risk a broken heart. Honor makes Scarlet look weak. She can’t walk but she can kick some English Civil War butt.

Moving forward in publishing time, my next risk taker is Claire Randall from OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon. Did I hear you sigh without even mentioning the name Jamie Fraser or the word kilt? From her background as a nurse in the war, to keeping her head after falling through the “way back machine” stones, to acting on her instincts in marrying and saving Jamie, and her pig-headed moves to try to get back home, Claire Randall makes one risky move after another. Again and again and again in each subsequent novel, too.

Best risk taker heroine in a musical? Annie from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN? Maria from WEST SIDE STORY? How about Anna from THE KING AND I? Think of the historical implications of a nineteenth century widow taking her son to live in Siam (Thailand) and stubbornly facing off with the king on issues related to personal freedom, female liberation, and slavery? He’s a king! Dang that girl has guts. Plus she can sing and dance.

You can see why my heroine, Cherry Tucker from PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, had to be a risk taker. She doesn’t always make the best decisions. She can be headstrong, opinionated, and mouthy. She has issues with falling for beautiful men. But she’s willing to put herself on the line to seek justice. And a good plate of hot wings.


  1. Ok, call me a wimp but I'm a fan of Maria Ranier of the Sound of Music. Very strong woman, indeed. Of course the true life story is different than the movie story but still a stong heroine!

    1. Perfect example, Jackie! They even wrote a song about her stubborn nature. I love the Sound of Music (I played Marta, the 8 year old, in 8th grade. Late bloomer).