6 Key Traits for Writing the Contemporary Literary Heroine

by Stacey Tucker

Write what you know. it’s the oldest advice out there. That’s great but for many women, what we know is old news. All around us, old paradigms are falling apart, old secrets are being exposed. The world as we know it is over.

It used to be that to shake things up you dropped a female character into a “man’s world.” Female detectives, athletes and presidential candidates were rule breakers simply for trying. Gone are the days when a plucky female with a little confidence could save the day. Our national headlines paint a picture of a rapidly changing landscape and it’s our job as writers to keep up. Women everywhere are asking “what now?”

It’s a scientific fact that time is actually accelerating. That’s why you’ve picked your head up and it’s almost Christmas. Today’s female reader is pressed for time, demanding as hell, and both scared and excited about the future. Your heroine must speak to that.

As a writer, you have to ask yourself one question … How much am I willing to risk?

Today’s woman is tired of the charade of perfection. A preserved self-image isn’t filling her up the way it used to. She is searching for authenticity and she wants to read about how to get it. Her heroine must show her how. Your job as a writer, no matter your gender, is to dig deep within yourself and write from that authentic spark within you. From there you can create a heroine equipped with a whole new set of tools to slay the dragons before us.

Photo by Toia Montes de Oca on Unsplash

Meet the Heroine:

Today’s heroine has declared herself her own authority.

In our “real world,” those in power have proven their inadequacies yet still take actions to infringe on our freedoms. Women are scared, and angry.

At first, our heroine comes out swinging. It seems to be the way things are done. The physical fight is temporarily effective. Female aggression has been stifled and to allow it room is intriguing. But soon on the journey, she realizes fighting fizzles, and she’s looking for the substance behind it.

Back in our world, women can be paralyzed by the fear of taking risks to be assertive. We haven’t been taught how.

[5 Excellent Tips on Writing Women’s Fiction]

Today’s heroine has to relate.

I daresay she isn’t confident. She hasn’t had time to strengthen that muscle. She’s been thrown into the scrum and in the beginning she barely survives. Like our reader, she is flawed, but there is value in her flaws. There are lessons in her mistakes.

Our literary heroine feels fear but the tiny voice inside her whispers the call of that one thing that is worth risking everything. At some point along the way she takes responsibility for that voice. She’s weighed the cost of going against the norm vs. the cost of going against her gut. She starts to trust her truth.

So our heroine needs a little faith

Our rational world belittles the mysteries of life. Everything should be explainable. Those that see what most cannot are our heroines. In our heart of hearts we all know there is a divine spark within us but have been conditioned to ignore it. Our heroine allows that spark of truth to lead her and give us the courage to do the same.

Women are desperate to tap into the secrets within them but haven’t been shown how. The old wheel taught us to deny our intuition, use our brain, and compete for the prize. The journey outward and upward is a flashy story. The heroine’s journey goes inward and that’s not as sexy as fighting in the arena. It’s quiet and oftentimes goes unnoticed. But along the way our heroine learns a few things and after a while…

Our heroine is valued for her wisdom.

She has learned the hard way that true connection only happens when one is vulnerable. So often being vulnerable is seen as weak, when in truth, being vulnerable is the biggest risk of all. And it’s what your reader wants in the deepest parts of herself. We’ve been taught our shadow must stay hidden. In that hiding, our shadow has grown into the monster we now see as our collective society. At this time in history, we are all being forced open, ready or not.

Our heroine has been broken wide open from the sting of loss (of all kinds). She’s learned only now can she step up and be a full human being. In the wisdom only pain teaches, she is more whole and more connected to the vitality of life.

Our heroine shows us the power of one.

We’ve all asked the question, “what can one person do?” Our heroine answers, “everything.” She shows us that the responsibility to change resides in every individual person. With all her baggage and imperfections and neurosis, she matters and she can make a difference. She shows us the meaning of grit, proves that there are no shortcuts, and only through the pain is the way out.

Our heroine shows us the power of the group.

We are all called to change individually and when we stand together in our power, we are stronger than we could ever be alone. Our heroine has learned how to lean on others, and has witnessed the magic that happens when we are truly open to accepting help.

Along her journey, our literary heroine remembers she used to have a sense of humor. She misses laughter and makes a conscious decision to work it back into her life. If she never lost it, even better. At the end of the day, humor is going to be the only thing that saves us from all of this.

As a writer, an effective heroine must be a part of you, regardless of your gender. You must be willing to expose the deepest, darkest, primal parts of yourself. That is where your authenticity lives. In those gut-wrenching parts of yourself, your heroine lies waiting to prove she’s worthy of the win.


About Stacey Tucker: A desire to build a bridge between today’s science and the magic of a time forgotten has landed Stacey Tucker in the world of fiction writing. Ocean’s Fire is the first of three books asking readers to open their minds to the possibilities hidden behind the veils our society forces upon us. She continues to redefine the word Feminine in America by speaking to women’s groups on cultivating the fire within as a catalyst for self-transformation. Ocean’s Fire recently took Gold in the Living Now Book Awards. Connect with her at staceytucker.net.


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