12 August 2015

from Yahoo! Answers:

What type of female characters aren't there enough of?

-- e.g., personality and appearance wise and what they can do. Are action-type female characters rare? What are cliches that need to be avoided? What would be a refreshing character?

Jonnie Comet:

In my opinion (as a novelist) I don't see enough of what I call the 'triple threat'. In fact I raised my daughters to be triple threats, and both truly are.

The triple threat has three distinct attributes: beauty, brains and virtue. The fascinating sociological context of this is that about 90% of men, whilst attracted to the triple threat, can't handle more than two of those attributes. Beautiful and virtuous, but stupid? --good. Virtuous and intelligent, but ugly? --they expect that. Beautiful and intelligent, but an utter trollop? --they'll take that (actually prefer it!).

As a novelist I tend to write these characters all the time. I began it, after writing plenty of rather normal (humanly flawed) female characters, with the teenaged au pair in Pamela, or Virtue Reclaimed. I had a (female) friend read it and she asked, 'Why did you make her so beautiful?'

I said, 'If she weren't beautiful, she would have no power.'  Men flock to Pamela, because she is beautiful. (She has a knockout figure in fact.) But once they learn the other two things about her-- she is very bright (genius IQ) and very committed to premarital chastity-- they can't cope. Since they can't deny her beauty (since men are all essentially visual), they attempt to take down her brains, by debating at length with her (the book is full of these arguments, many based on reality), usually about why she won't go to bed with them. In the end, of course, Pamela marries beyond her expectations-- and I won't reveal more than that.

I have sort of kept to this heroine type in Deirdre, the Wanderer, essentially a foil to Pamela. Deirdre messes up just about everything; but at least she keeps (most of) her virtue. She is rather normal in brains and appearance, which is to say she is much more in both than she believes she is. Another heroine, in a very different context, is Janine, a first-person narrator in a fantasy-world series. Janine is more beautiful than Deirdre, normal intellectually, and less virtuous; but she is still essentially unattainable unless the boy of her dreams rises to meet her on her pedestal.

Most of what I write is very old-fashioned-- even chivalric literature. But this is what isn't being done today, in film, TV or novels. Much of what we see or read today (Hunger Games, Revolution, Pretty Little Liars) may start out well but fades into banal normalcy. I think we need heroines who are sharp, witty, resourceful and chaste whilst still able to look and act like ladies in ALL situations. THIS is the kind of girl character that would make guys read the book.

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