Thursday, April 23, 2009

Guest Blogger Robin Shope

We have guest blogger Robin Shope joining us to discuss Heroine. She is also giving away a copy of her newest novel Wildcard. Check for details at the end of this post.


Flawed Heroines
By Robin Shope

"She speaks poniards, and every word stabs."
Benedick from Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing

I am demanding of my heroines. They must be flawed.
I overheard a conversation once that went like this, "The female lead in my novel is beautiful. Flawless. Long blonde hair, twinkling blue eyes, a button nose, gorgeous figure. She is sweet and kind, too. The moment the hero sets his dashing eyes on her, he falls in love even before the first word is spoken." I hated the heroine already. Was this for real? Cinderella is just a fairy tale, so I knew it wasn’t that story, not again.

So, how do we become flawed? Reality. Give me a heroine who snorts when she laughs, stutters self consciously when she is nervous, who doesn’t take herself seriously so therefore no one else does. As a result she is overlooked once more for a promotion. One who always answers the phone on only the fourth ring and if she cannot reach the phone in time, allows the answering machine to pick it up.

Just as in real life, our heroines should be portrayed with flaws. Think about Kate on the TV show Lost. We all thought she was an innocent gal until we had a glimpse of her shocking past, which explains a lot about why she chose Sawyer over Jack. Brie Hodges from Desperate Housewives is the very picture of being perfect but her perfectness causes her to live by rigid, narrow guidelines, deeply flawing her in that process.

In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, we find beautiful Beatrice who is given to fits of fierce opposition. So, tell me, why do we love her? Because she is a witty heroine known for her verbal dueling. She has it all in her life, everything to bless her and to vex her.

On the flip side, should men be perfect? Let’s look at the TV character Monk, played by Tony Shaluba. He is an obsessive-compulsive detective who can hardly function in life so he hires an assistant. He also lacks social graces. So why do we love him? Because he is a genius at solving crime. How about a villain with redeeming qualities? Think about The Phantom of the Opera. In the movie version, one side of his face is horribly disfigured, while the other side is normal and quite handsome. Both sides reflect the two halves of his personality; a cold blooded killer and a lonely man who woos Christine through music.

Back to the conversation about the twinkling blue eyes and button nose. The gal listening to her friend replied, "Well, my heroine hates anyone who is not a workaholic. I have her kicking street people in the first chapter but she changes by the last chapter." Oh boy. Can a heroine be too flawed to be loved by readers? Yep. Readers may not get to the last chapter if they find the heroine is too unappealing. The reader needs to connect with the heroine and like her enough to read the whole book and cheer for her.

Flaws are important. They reveal the need for change and make us vulnerable in our humanity. I put my heroines in uncomfortable situations, forcing them to change. They grow. Improve. Just like we do in real life. We can use that grist in our writing. As a card-carrying member of flawed heroines, I see stories everywhere.

Writers, who’s your favorite flawed heroine? (Hero?) Would you want her as your friend? What flaws do you write into your heroine's character? What risks did she have to take? And was it fun?

Check out Robin's new novel Wild Card.
Here is a description.
Turn on the news any night and you will hear frightening news reports about what Washington is doing. Where does it start? With law makers. However, it begins before then, at the ballot box. This book is about fiddling with voter ballots. Its been done before but not on such a grand scale. Blurb: What would happen if someone secured a microchip that could be manipulated to give his or her candidate the edge to win the next presidential election? Not enough votes for a landslide, but just enough to put their candidate over the top in a decisive win. The Wildcards are a group of maverick agents who want to take over the outcome of the next election for President of the United States. During Ivy Dillon's last week as a Washington Intern, she and Ms. Geneen Waters, the secretary to the President of the United States, overhear a conversation about voting machines and missing software. Months later Ms. Waters body is found floating in the Potomac River. FBI Special Agent Ian Serby, who swears he will give his life to protect her, takes Ivy into protective custody. Ian is smart, sexy and seems to have a hidden agenda all his own. Will Ivy follow her heart and believe what Ian tells her about trying to stop the Wildcards or is he actually a member of the Wildcards?

Check out chapter one
Chapter One


He stared at her with superb green eyes the color of a calm sea, but it was his slow smile that pierced her heart. Eyes and smile. Together they pulled her into the deep waters of wild imagination. The six-footer awkwardly tugged on his collar and no wonder, he seemed totally out of place at the theater’s cast party. Ivy Dillon was ripe for romance. She had to meet Whatzhisname.

“Here’s your fruit punch.” Jordan nudged. “I snagged you a cup before the alcohol went in.”

“Thanks.” Ivy turned toward her roommate. “By the way, who’s that?”

“Who?”

“The great looking guy near the window.” Ivy tipped her head in that direction.

“You can’t mean Martin?” Jordan snorted.

“Martin?” Ivy whipped around and squinted. Sure enough, the man she set her sighs on meeting had disappeared and in his place was Martin, still wearing his stage makeup. He waved at her. Ivy waved back, disappointedly. “No not him.”

Ivy cruised through the stage director’s apartment, trying to catch sigh of the man with the interesting angular features, the hair that curled up along his neckline, and, oh yes, those eyes—those amazing eyes.

On the way by the dessert table, the chocolate covered strawberries distracted her. She bit into one, enjoying the meeting of two rivers of flavors, and just like that Whatzhisname appeared in front of her. A miracle!

“You have a bit of chocolate right there,” he told her pointing at the corner of her mouth.

“Thanks,” Ivy croaked.

“May I?” he asked permission to touch her skin and wipe the chocolate away.

Ivy moved closer and felt the gentle stroke of his touch. Just like strawberries and chocolate, Ivy knew they were meant to be.

“There, you’re perfect again.” He licked his chocolate finger and then glanced around the room scanning faces. “Great opening night for the play. Do you know the cast?”

Ivy nodded. “Yes, in fact, the leading actress is my friend.”

“Jordan Belle is your roommate? Interesting.”

“How did you know she was my roommate?”

Just as Whatzhisname opened his mouth to answer, Martin swayed up and held out a platter of canapés. “Would you help pass these for me, doll?” he asked Ivy.

No, no, definitely no. No way did she want to do anything that would take her away from a promising evening. It was hard to resist the urge to shove the food back toward Martin. Politely, Ivy accepted the canapés and offered them to the guests. The next time she looked up Whatzhisname was heading toward the front door. Running after him would be way too pathetic so she let him go. She had to. He went one way and she went the other way to the balcony where she hoped to catch one last glimpse of him as he left the building. Ivy leaned over the railing and waited. And waited.

An unexpected hand on her shoulder made her jump back, dropping her purse as she did so. The contents flew everywhere. “Oh no!” Ivy chased her belongings, hoping to save them before they rolled over the edge.

“Are you all right?” a male voice asked, as she saw hands scrambling to help pick up the loose items—lipstick, business cards, inhaler, loose change and billfold.

She looked into his face and sighed. “It’s you!”

Whatzhisname was back, with the perfect stormy eyes and that slow smile. It was enough to melt the ice sculpture on the buffet table. She shivered with delight.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“You didn’t frighten me.”

“I hate to contradict you, but you looked quite frightened.”

“Startled may be the more appropriate word choice, but I assure you I ain’t frightened,” Ivy panned.

“Ain’t ain’t a word.”

“I know. I used it for effect.” She loved the color of his eyes.

“I guess that makes it all right then.” One at a time, he handed back he items However, he held tightly onto her business card. “Is this your card?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Then I must keep it,” he sweetly added as if he had no other desire than to know her.

Just like that, Ivy let him pull it from between her fingers. “I think I have everything now, thanks to you.” She snapped her purse shut.

“That’s good.” He straightened, slipped the card into his jacket pocket and turned to leave the party.

His abrupt exit made Ivy dizzy. Nonchalantly, she strolled through the party, smiling and nodding at the guests hoping to find Whatzhisname again. She had a dozen things she wanted to know about him, among them his name. However, they all drained from her head when Jordan hooked her by the arm.

“Catch a cab home. I’ll see ya in the morning.” With the toss of her long hair, Jordan skipped out of the party with a man on her arm.

Just then Whatzhisname sailed right by on his way out the front door, without even so much as a goodbye. Her window of opportunity had shut. After a few more chocolate covered strawberries eaten over deep sighs, it was Ivy’s turn to go home.


****

Ivy sat at the end of the pier with her feet in the water. She stared up at the oversized moon. The reflection of the heavenly constellation floated across the bay toward the shore on a parade of ripples. Suddenly, they turned into hands that leapt toward her, cold wet finger wrapped about her ankles. With a jerk, she was pulled beneath the lake. Frantically, she fought to free herself but she was no match. She lay motionless at the sandy bottom. Something poked her. Slowly, Ivy opened her eyes and inches away lay a body with hair swirling around the head. A skeletal hand reached out to her.

A dog howled outside on Washington Street.

Ivy bolted straight up in bed and pulled at the constricting button on the neck of her nightgown. She couldn’t breath. Mechanically, she swung her arm toward her prescription inhaler and accidentally propelled it across the room. It smacked the wall and ht the floor.

She knew it would be impossible to find her inhaler in a room draped in shadows so she staggered to the window and yanked open the shade. With daylight now sparkling on the floor, she found her inhaler on its side beneath the green cushioned chair alongside her bed. She dropped to her knees and snatched it. Ivy rocked back on her heels and opened her mouth. Several blasts of medicine sprayed her throat, allowing air to rush into her lungs. Slowly she counted her breaths as her eyes settled on a single rosebud in the pattern of her curtains. Bit by bit, she recovered.

Now all she wanted to do was fall back into bed, drag the blanket over her head and sleep for ten hours. Instead, she mustered her strength and latched onto the arm of the chair to pull up. It didn’t matter how sick she felt, she had to go to work.

She took off her nightgown and tuned the radio to a news talk station. Two political analysts from opposing parties were doing what they did best—arguing.

“Slow down, men,” she told them on the way into the bathroom. “The next presidential election is still two years away.”

Ivy stepped into the shower. The whoosh of the water in her face resurfaced the nightmare of the moonlight, the fingers, and the feeling of not being able to breath. Ten years later and she was still haunted by finding her best friend dead in the lake shallows. She felt thankful that during the day she was able to skate above the thoughts, but sometimes at night, when her defenses were down, they returned. Ivy shut her eyes tighter but the memory of Karin’s pale skin and dead eyes was all she could see. It weighed her down making her weak with terror. Ivy leaned against the tiles until she regained her balance.

The phone rang. Ivy didn’t move. On the third ring, she reached turned off the stream of water. After she slipped into her robe, she made her way to the phone. The caller ID read anonymous. She shouldn’t answer, she knew this, but she couldn’t stop herself. Her hands shook as she picked up the receiver. “Hello?”

“Erin, thank goodness I finally found you.” As usual the ‘Voice’ was calm, so in control.

“No one by that name lives here,” Ivy pushed out the words in a whisper and then slammed down the phone. She waited for it to ring again since it always did. The sound of his creepy tenor seemed to drip from the bathroom walls. Ivy kept staring at the phone, trembling. This time, there was no second call.

Now all Ivy wanted to do was to get out of the apartment and on the street where she felt safer and not so isolated. In her hurry, she nearly broke the zipper on her skirt as she struggled to get dressed.

Then, just as she reached the door, she heard someone fiddling with the doorknob. Ivy set her briefcase and purse down and peered through the peephole. In the hallway was the unmistakable form of her roommate who was now digging through her bag. Ivy turned the lock on the door and Jordan sailed into the apartment.

“Thank goodness you’re still here. I can’t find my key again.”

“Its lucky you caught me. Another minute and I’d be gone.” Jordan hugged several copies of the theater critic’s section to her chest. “Do you have time to read my reviews before you leave?”

“I always have time for you.” Ivy took a paper and read the metro section. “Jordan Belle Stands Out Among a Talented Cast. The only way it could get better is if people knew who you really were, Erin Lowe.”

“My theater name is Jordan Belle. Never, ever refer to me using my given name again.”

“What’s the harm” There’s only the two of us here.”

“Because you might slip up when it really matters,” Jordan said dramatically with a lift of an eyebrow.

“I can’t shake the feeling that there is something more you are not telling me.” Frustrated, Ivy needed to know. “What is it?”

Jordan bit her lip.

“Jordan, we’ve been though a lot since your sister Karin’s death. You owe it to me to let me know what it is you’re hiding from. Help me to understand.”

Jordan dropped into a chair, crossing one leg over the other. “All you need to know is that it involved the ‘Voice’. As long as he can’t find me, I’ll be happy.”

“Well, Jordan Bell, prepare to be sad. The ‘Voice’ called this morning asking for Erin.”


If you would like to win a copy of Wildcards be sure to leave a comment.
Answer the Question of the Day: Who is your favorite hero or heroine?
My favorite hero is Mr. Darcy. I love Jane Austen so of couse I would pick him. As for heroine I am going to say Jo in Little Women. I am going to have to think about current novels that I read. I tend to change with each book.
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8 comments:

kellie said...

I think that this book would be great.she makes the characters flawed and therefore easier to relate too.I would like to be entered for a chance at winning her book thanks Kellie

MJ said...

Ashley is Gone With the Wind.

MJ said...

I follow

squiresj said...

My favorite heroine was Jane Eyre growing up. My favorite hero is Chuck Connors.
I am an avid reader and could list many many of them.
Enter me to win:
jrs362 (at) hotmail (dot) com

Lorraine said...

My favorite hero is my husband for taking good care of me for 33 years.
Lorraine
MOML1@COX.NET

mez said...

Another vote for Mr.Darcy. A heroine I've always enjoyed is Anne from Anne of Green Gables.

worthy2bpraised[at]gmail[dot]com

mez said...

I am a follower.

mez said...

I'm a subscriber.