Heroines Need Not Apply
A blog post by Elle Hill
My novels are heroine-free. Seriously. They always feature a strong supporting cast and a drool-worthy hero, but look as you may, you will never find a heroine.
Sheroes, however, are another story.
I write straight romance, which means there’s a girl main character and a boy main character. In most of my stories, the girl protagonist is pretty clearly the main-er character, but in some of them, like Hunted Dreams, my scenes are divided pretty equally between the sexes. When speaking about these two character staples, most folks I know use the terms “main characters” or, if they’re, like me, a fan of melodrama, heroes and heroines.
I won’t use the term “heroine,” and not just because it sounds like a narcotic substance. (Creepy, right?) Words ending with “ine,” “ina,” “ita,” “ette,” and “ess” annoy the heck outta me. See, these words have one thing in common: added at the end of a word, they all represent it in a feminine and/or diminutive form. “Señorita” means “little señora,” “waitress” means “female waiter,” and “bachelorette” means “female bachelor.” As my old friend, dictionary.com, says of “ette,” “English nouns in which the suffix ETTE designates a feminine role or identity have been perceived by many people as implying inferiority or insignificance.” Word, dictionary.com. Word.
My women main characters are neither illegal substances nor inferior. Thus, I will not use “heroine.” I’m fine with calling her a hero; what’s good for the gander, and all that. But a few years ago, I heard someone – I think it might have been the indomitable fat lib activist, Marilyn Wann – use the term “shero,” and I was hooked. See, I’m not against specifying sex via words; I’m opposed to using suffixes that imply smallness and insignificance.
My partner’s ex once grumped that “shero” shouldn’t exist because “hero” isn’t an inherently gendered term. She thought I was using it in the same way some feminists change “his-story” to “her-story.” Don’t get me wrong – I think such wordplay is thought-provoking and useful. However, while my decision is mired in gender politics, my goal is a slightly different one. I don’t hate “hero” for having the dreaded “he” in it; I simply don’t want to use a diminutive form of any word to describe the greatness of my women characters.
Book: Hunted Dreams
Number of books I’m giving away: Two of Hunted Dreams
Purchasing the book: http://www.amazon.com/Hunted-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00CHUEIIG
“The Leeches got their nickname from the way they eat.” Reed’s voice was even.
“They drink blood?” she breathed.
He shook his head. “A little less literal. The Broschi are empathic. They can feel and even evoke other people’s feelings, negative ones like fear, pain, horror.”
“Sun and stars,” she breathed. She got it.
She got it.
“They’re eating me,” she said, and laughed, but not humorously. “These superhuman, psychic Leech people are keeping me trapped in nightmares, eating my feelings.” Her chest felt heavy. She pressed her left hand against it and felt its gentle rise and fall.
None of this is real. All this drama, all this fear, all the pain and anger and malice. None of it exists except in the form of juicy brainwaves that these beings sip like mint juleps. No wonder she couldn’t die, couldn’t escape, couldn’t ever wake up.
Reed’s face was flushed, his nostrils wide. Her handsome hero. For a minute, she hated him, hated that he got to wake up, hated this situation, hated everything boxing her in this narrow world.
Katana glared at him for a moment. “I’m trapped in here,” she grated.
His face relaxed into compassion. Hers hardened.
“I know,” he said.
She stared at him for a moment longer. Finally, with a sigh, she leaned her head against the glass. “Who are you, Reed?”
“I’m a Leech, too, Katana.”