Do strong female characters invalidate the male hero?

This post was inspired by a number of factors occurring together. There was this post by Chuck Wendig, then a critique I did for an author friend, a romance that I read – which I mention later in this post – and my own experience in writing.

Most of the time in genre fiction, we have a male hero. The female character at best is a helping hand. In romance, which I write and read a lot and hence will be talking about, we do have a story usually progressing from the heroine’s point of view. But is it really heroine-driven?

I’ll diverge a little from the topic here to try to differentiate between heroine oriented and heroine driven plots. I’m taking these terms to mean a heroine oriented story is about her, not necessarily making her in charge or the ‘hero’ of the story. There can be things happening to her and she might just be cataloging all that without really affecting the course of the story.

She is the ‘hero’ when she is responsible for at least a few major changes in the course of the story.

That differentiation isn’t simple when you are writing romance. You know what’s a big dilemma in writing romance? The first is finding the balance in devoting proper space to the characters.
Sure you can write from one character’s pov but even then you must have the proper fleshing out of the other character. What they are or aren’t from the pov of your pov character. What they won’t be and why that irks your pov character.
Here comes the problem. If you write a story centered around one character, that isn’t romance. Maybe a romantic biographical experience. For it, to be romance, you have to focus on two people and give their story equivalent, if not, equal space and emphasis.

In the older genre of romances that I used to read in my teens, it was common to have the narration mainly through the female character, through whose eyes one saw the hero (what I call heroine oriented story). Nowadays, there are usually two povs and I for one, enjoy reading and writing both the characters’ points of view. But in spite of the story proceeding from both the directions, at times one can overshadow the other especially when that character is bringing more change in the story.

Most of the time, it’s the hero. In fact, Alpha is the term coined just for romance heroes who are expected and designed to take charge. But if they take charge of ALL the events, what’s left for the heroine to do?

Here’s the second dilemma in romance fiction.

And the third. Can this situation occur in reverse?

This was illustrated to me in a book I read recently. Read my review of that book here. In this, the hero was not the strong dominant type. At first it irked because one looks for that in Harlequin romance but the start was interesting, so I settled into the story and it looked like he had some growing up to do, which was fine. But then the growing up was thrust into your face when, with the turn of the page, the book jumped four years. Maybe if it had been from his point of view and we were taken through it in stages it wouldn’t have been so bad but I was seriously considering throwing the book at the wall at this point. However, I had the time and I rarely give up on a book so I stuck on skimming the paragraphs till I could find the main characters together again. I did finish the book but it seemed to me that an attempt had been made to steal the heroine’s thunder in giving the hero a more ‘heroic’ personality. He was made to grow up and assume the ‘hero’ mantle and ‘hero’ features in a hurry and at the cost of reader interest.
It is common to find the story being sacrificed to fit in category romance. But to this extent? To change and remold the characters? Is that even wise?

Which makes me think, maybe they do have a point. This feeling was reinforced when I resumed work on my current book, The Eligible Princess.
To update you, this is a historical romance and involves the heroine’s journey.  Also the hero’s journey because in romance – the way I see it – both must occur together.
Now here in this book whenever I have the heroine doing something which is like taking up the reins, assuming control of her life and somehow even the story…when she does that, the hero comes across as a…well…wimp. If she faces danger the question comes ‘What doesn’t he know better than letting her go and head into it?’ I began to run out of ideas of what she could do without thoroughly hogging the limelight.

I ended up empathizing more with the book I had just finished. You never know how they pinch till you have worn the shoes yourself, isn’t it? *sigh*

Have you faced this trouble with strong female leads? While reading or while writing? Do they eclipse the hero? Is that a problem? In romance, do you expect the hero to play a more defining role? Would you like a romance where the female lead dictated most of the action? Do you like to read both the hero and heroine’s pov in romance?
Do share your views.

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Should we read outside our favourite genre?

Well, should we? Or is it an exercise in futility?
Let’s see. Why do we read fiction?
To get entertained.
To immerse ourselves into other worlds and for that time lose ourselves into another existence.
We watch movies or plays for much the same reasons.
Now some readers are quite flexible and able to enjoy all sorts of fiction.
Are you one of those?
Most readers though have their particular favourite flavour.
I belong to that category. I’m a diehard romance reader and there’s no better way of unwinding for me than taking up a shiny new genre book and forgetting everything else for some hours. I can read murder mysteries with relish too, though the drawback is you can’t quite put one down without knowing the end. That plays havoc with your daily routine.
When taking up thrillers or other genres, I find they can be enjoyed in small doses but I tire of them quickly.

Have you felt like that? So keeping that in mind, would it better if we just don’t step out of our preferred niche? If we stick to what we enjoy most?

Am I wasting my time reading other books that most probably I won’t read with much fervour? With so many books around I don’t lack for choice. So maybe I should concentrate on enjoyment and not exploration?

Here’s my two sides of the debate. Do share your thoughts in the comments.

Pros of reading your favourite genre fiction:
Entertainment value
Well, that’s pretty much obvious.
Must for writers
To learn :
Structure
Reader expectation
What has being done What’s trending
Finding like minded friends

Cons of reading the same genre
Becoming niche You’ll lose sight of the new happenings in other genres.
Writers beware! Like a dish which is bland without spices, your reading experience is pallid without exploring other genres. Reading vastly different genres like sci fi and romance can  provide you with that twist in your fiction and new ideas with which to refresh your story. (Check out my sci fi story in collection Unexpected Valentines. Readers have really loved it.)
Bored with it We need change. We can’t eat pizza everyday. Well, maybe some of us can! My kids for instance. But getting a balanced diet is important too.

The good thing is we have crossover or combination genre fiction to tide you over the change and gently take you out of your favourite genre. Want thrills and romance? There’s romantic suspense. Paranormal historical? Fantasy romance? You name it, it’s probably been done three hundred times already.  If not, you could have a go at it.

Which is your favourite genre? Do you like to explore different genres? Are you comfortable stepping out of your favourite literature zone?

Three Tips for Promoting Your #Writing

This post is for writers who want to promote their work and are new at it.

Promotion is a necessary evil in a writer’s profession. Like it or not, if you want the world to see your work, you have to wade in these muddy waters. If you are someone like me who dreamed of hiding in her cave and churning out words, it can be a rude fact to wake up to. Believe me, I didn’t relish talking about myself at all as necessitated for so called platform building. Talking about the book was a little easier. However, as I started to make friends and meet like-minded people during the book promotion whirlwind, I began to sort of ease into this stuff.
For those beginning to test these waters, here are my two cents worth. Hope these tips will help.

>>Write consistently
So you have a new book out. If you have been on the social media for some time,  you will be looking for interviews and guest posts to put the word out for your new release. Having a pile of blogposts to write can play havoc with your schedule. My advice: Rather than releasing ten posts in a week, space them out. Do a post a day or four a week but don’t lose sight of the fact that you are a writer. Don’t stop working on your next book.

>>Make time for social media regularly
This can seem a contradiction of the first. But the truth is, just like you can’t stop writing,  you can’t stop blogging or tweeting or updating facebook status or whatever it is that you are fond of doing in the way of social networking. The key factor here is to do it in small bites. A ten minutes twitter break while writing. Using the  half hour of post lunch relaxation for blogging. You get the drift. Fix a limit for networking and stick to it. I know it’s hard. So it’s okay to let go once in a while. We’re humans, not mechanical timers that can be set to go off at a particular time 🙂 But do try to exercise restraint 😉

>>Share others’ work and support them
The more you step out for others, the more you will receive from them in your turn. And really in the writing world there is no competition. At least my writer friends haven’t heard of it; kudos to them! 🙂 Writers are among the most supportive lot in all professions. So do try to do as much as you can for your writing buddies.

These are the skimmed cream equivalent from what I’ve been learning. More in later posts as I learn the ropes of promotion especially in the world of self publishing.

Hope you found this post helpful. Do share your own promo tips in the comments 🙂

Review versus rating

If you are a writer who has published, you must have had your brush with the reviews and ratings for your book. We all love a five star, don’t we? But it strikes me as I course over the reviews of my book that sometimes even a low rating is okay if the reviewer has appreciated your book and directed the right type of readers or readers who are likely to have a taste for that type of fiction to your book.

So I’d like to ask all authors out there – which is more important to you? A good review or a better rating? Would you be happier if you had a higher rating but the reader left some criticism that you couldn’t digest or a low rating like the situation I described above?

Review versus rating…let’s hear your take on it!

Guest post On Words and Sentences blog: Summerita Rhayne on the dos and don’ts of writing romance fiction

Nikita Jhanglani invited me to share my thoughts about the dos and don’t of writing romance fiction. Here’s my post on her blog Of Words and Sentences – Nikita Jhanglani.

Here’s an extract:

Nikita Jhanglani:
According to you what are the dos and don’ts of writing a romance novel that every aspiring author should stick to.

Summerita Rhayne:
Hi Nikita. Thank you for having me on your blog and giving me the opportunity to share my views here.

The absolute dos that a romance novel needs are these:

Two main characters. My books are M/F romances so they involve a male and female but that is up to the author.
A happy ever after. That is a must. In all romances, things must be resolved and the couple must confess their love and the desire to be with each other forever. Nowadays, a happy-for-now is replacing the HEA in some lines but speaking of personal preference, I go for the mushy endings, both in reading and writing romances. The happy-for-now mostly works if the story is in series form.
Emphasis on emotional conflict. Romance novels are character driven and not plot driven. There’s nothing more off-putting in a romance than characters jumping from one event to another without rhyme and reason. What I find gripping in a romance is the emotional ups and downs. The core question in any fiction is how a character chooses a particular path instead of another when the personal stakes are high but it’s asked most eloquently in romances.

The don’ts are all relative in my point of view. You need them according to the publisher you are working on. Some publishers require Alpha males who are filthy rich so that the fantasy element is fulfilled. Some will require you make the heroine beautiful so the attraction-at-first-sight trope is fulfilled. The list is endless.

Here are the don’t s which I follow:

Use secondary characters sparingly. In romance novels, secondary characters are distracting. Especially if you’re writing a novella upto say 50k words, you just don’t have space to do justice to your main characters let alone complicating it with others. However, secondary characters add fun to the story and provide support to your main cast…Read the rest here

Thanks to Nikita again for hosting me.

Do share your views on the post, folks!

Guest post by Sundari Venkatraman – Tips on being a self-publisher and being successful 

Today I have author Sundari Venkatraman on my blog. She has recently released her new book ‘The Runaway Bridegroom’ on Amazon which is her third self published book. Please welcome her for her chat about how to be a self published author and be successful in this tough market.

Take it away, Sundari! 🙂

…..

Thank you Summerita Rhayne for asking me about my favourite subject!

As I have mentioned during many interviews, I had tried to get my books into traditional publishing for 13 years. Later, I managed to publish one book through Indireads. But even before Double Jeopardy, I had four and a half books to my name and had published all of them as weekly series on my blog. Luckily for me, Indireads refused to publish these books for whatever reason. When Rubina Ramesh suggested self-publishing them on Amazon, I jumped at the chance. Exploring the option with help of Rasana Atreya’s blog on self-publishing, I found that it’s a very simple process where I needed to invest in a cover and editing only. After that, all I had to do was upload the book and market it.

 

On being successful, I think it was nothing short of a divine plan. I am a fan of social media and have always been active on my blog (Flaming Sun has 5,91,008 hits as I am writing this); facebook, twitter and google+. Having worked for a couple of websites under the Network 18 umbrella, what I realise is that the only way to promote yourself via social media is to promote others.

 

  • Visit blogs and post “relevant” comments (believe me, people know when you post something inane without reading the article)
  • Share others’ posts when you find them relevant or interesting (just ‘like’ing is not enough; that does not help spread the word)
  • “Shout” about other authors’ works (you can be truthful and talk about those that you genuinely found interesting but take that extra few seconds to actually spread the word). When your twitter account is connected to facebook, the post automatically gets tweeted.
  • Create an author page on Amazon and encourage your friends to ‘like’ the page
  • Add all book reviews that you have written to Amazon page. The reviewer ranking works to an extent. I prefer to add on Amazon sites of all countries as the reviewer ranking varies with each one.
  • Most importantly, get yourself a blog tour. I get mine done through The Book Club and believe me when I say that sales soar after the tour. It’s a great help as many bloggers get together to review, spotlight and interview the author. Then there are those guest posts that are gaining popularity. People are keen to know what makes the author tick and a one-question plan works better for blog readers than a lengthy interview.

And the rest, as they say, is history J

…..

Thanks for sharing your views and experiences, Sundari. It’s lovely to know about your positive and encouraging attitude and I’m with you on this that authors helping authors can multiply visibility for all involved.

This post is a part of the tour for Sundari’s book, ‘The Runaway Bridegroom’

 

 

 

 
THE RUNAWAY BRIDEGROOM
by
Sundari Venkatraman
 
 

Blurb

 
Chanda Maheshwari’s family is shaken when her thirteen-year-old bridegroom Veerendra runs away immediately after the wedding. The eight-year-old child doesn’t even understand the impact on her life. Unable to face their neighbours and friends, the Maheshwaris move from their village to Jaipur and begin a new life in the city.
 
Fourteen years later, Chanda is studying in a Delhi College. She takes up a temporary job at RS Software Pvt. Ltd. and falls head-over-heels for the boss of the operation. But what about  Ranveer Singh? Is he interested in her?
 
Ranveer’s secretary Shikha is desperate to make him fall for her. All she wants is life-long security with a rich man. But it’s nerd Abhimanyu who keeps getting in the way. Abhi is Ranveer’s second-in-command and Shikha isn’t keen on him as she’s eyeing the main chance. 
 
When Ranveer appears to show interest in Chanda, she’s faced with a new problem. Astrologer Vidyasagar insists that she would get back with her husband Veerendra. Does anyone want to know what she wants? 
 
Chanda feels torn between the man she has fallen for and the family values that have been instilled in her. Will she ever find happiness? 
 
Buy @
 




Meet the Author
 
 
Sundari Venkatraman has authored four ebooks so far, The Runaway Bridegroom being the latest. Three of her books, namely, The Malhotra Bride; Meghna and The Runaway Bridegroom have all been self-published on Amazon under the banner of Flaming Sun. All three books are regularly seen on Amazon’s Top 100 Bestsellers’ Contemporary Romances list. 
 
A great fan of Mills & Boon romances over the past four decades, Sundari has always believed in ‘Happily Ever Afters’ and all her books promise happy endings. 
 
The Runaway Bridegroom talks about ‘Child Marriage’, an evil perpetrated even in the 21st century in a country like India. While a large number of the country’s population live in the cities and lead modern lives, there are many who follow old customs unaware of the negative impact on the lives of the younger generation. 
 
The book is a work of fiction and of course does not preach. The author has but made an attempt to bring this ancient custom to the eyes of the modern public around the world while bringing a simple solution to the protagonists, the victims of child marriage. 
 
“I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I loved writing it,” says Sundari Venkatraman. 
 
You can stalk her @
         
Check out the Blog Tour Schedule Here 
Hosted by




This Tour is Hosted by 

 Blog hosted by Summerita Rhayne, author of sensual romance, Against All Rules

Guest post by Author Aditi Chopra – Plot vs Characters #writingtips

Today I have author Aditi Chopra on my blog, talking about the importance of plot versus characters in writing. Please welcome her.

Take it away, Aditi!

……

As a writer, do you develop plot first or your characters? For some authors, plot is very important whereas others spend a lot of time on character development. I am fairly new in fiction writing profession, but if I look back at my stories so far, I have invariably always spent my initial time on character development. For each of my stories, I always honed in on the main character – her profession, her needs, desires and personality traits. I asked myself why a reader would find this person interesting. I then went on to develop the appropriate plot.

I believe that as readers, we always invest in people (characters). There are some characters that we completely identify with and there are some characters that we can’t connect with. But invariably what intrigues a reader is the character. If the readers like a character, they will invest time in reading the story.

This doesn’t mean that the plot is not important, it most certainly is. As writers, we definitely need to spend appropriate research and time in plotting. But if you were to ask my preference, I do spend more time or my initial time in character development. If I can bring out my character’s personality in my plot, I am happy with my story.

……

Thank you, Aditi! I agree with you one hundred per cent. Relatable characters or at least characters whose motivation you can understand, are the life and breath of a story. Wish you all the best in your writing! 🙂

About the Author

Aditi Chopra writes NRI (Non-Resident Indian) fiction and non-fiction books. Her fiction stories are rooted in Indian tradition and yet very modern. You can find her at www.aditichopra.com