1. complete in natural growth or development, as plant and animal forms: a mature rose bush.
2. ripe, as fruit, or fully aged, as cheese or wine.
3. fully developed in body or mind, as a person: a mature woman.
Synonyms: aged, grown, adult, ripe.
Antonyms: childish, raw, green, young
When my beta reader critiqued some of my early manuscripts, she asked me "How old is this heroine supposed to be?"
I had to think. I remember answering "twenty-six."
"She seems eighteen," she replied.
She had a point. At that time, my heroines were shallow, silly, too sweet, and all they could think about was the hero.
I had problems with supporting characters, too. "How old is the little girl supposed to be?" she asked about a a child in one of my books.
"Eight or nine," I said.
"She seems five."
Hey, maybe I should have gone for YA.
Instead, I focused on making my heroines (and secondary characters) seem more mature. I swung the other way, and my next heroine was a little too tough and bitter (she was an abused spouse).
Beta reader said "She's interesting, but I wouldn't want to be friends with her." From contests and submissions, I got, "Can't connect with this heroine."
My conclusion? Neither of those extremes makes for a compelling heroine. In my opinion, it's not about the chronological age we assign to our heroines. It's about her inner being. The way she talks, the way she acts. Her thoughts. Her psychology.
In "The Fire in Fiction," Donald Maass asks, "What draws you to people in life? An even better question is, to what degree are you drawn to people in life? It varies, doesn't it? most people leave you indifferent, I bet. When you are pushing your loaded shopping cart across the supermarket parking lot, are you filled with love for your fellow shoppers?"
He gives this sage advice. "Whether they are public figures or just ordinary in profile, our heroes and heroines are people whose actions inspire us. We would not mind spending ten straight hours or even ten days with them."
"People whose actions inspire us." Interesting.
I'm learning. I'm working on the tough heroine mentioned above. And I think the heroine of my current project is a better blend of tough and tender, vulnerable and strong.
So my question for the day is this. How do you strive to create the perfect blend of maturity in a heroine in your books? What elements do you think make the reader connect? What makes a heroine sympathetic without being whiny?
Here are some characteristics I've collected from our previous discussions this month about the mature heroine:
- Zest for life.
- Feeling like the world holds many more possibilities.
- Walk that tightrope between a dour reality and a pollyanna fantasy.
- From a love standpoint, I think you can fall in love at any age. I just don't think you do so with as much reckless abandonment at 40 or later.
- They know who they are, faults and virtues, therefore know what they want, know what boundaries to set with others, know what they will and will not do.
- They are significantly more confident than their younger selves, thus are significantly sexier.
- The heroine who knows what she'll put up with in a man and what she won't is infinitely more interesting, don't you agree? She's a force to be reckoned with and makes a better match for a strong hero, IMO.
What would you add to this list?
Photos from MorgueFile