Bride of Frankenlover: Four Steps to Building the Perfect Female Lead
By Grace on Mar 19th, 2015
Last week we convened the Secret Order of Mad Scientist Romance Novel Lovers, and, notwithstanding a slight fire phobia, we did it. We built the Perfect Male Lead.
In light of our resounding success, I propose to the assembled that we try for the impossible. A creature of myth and legend. An experiment so delicate, so overwhelmingly important, that I shudder to speak its name. Do I dare? I do!
Tonight, we will go down in history as having build Frankenlover’s Bride: The Perfect Female Lead.
A body is important - while our heroine’s most important characteristics lie within, bodies have the useful benefit of carrying all those characteristics from place to place in a convenient package. In romance, we tend to prefer our ladies sexily accessible, rather than the absolute epitome of female perfection. Mostly because all ladies are imperfect, here or there; any lady who looks completely smooth and flawless has been makeupped and photoshopped within an inch of her life. Is this unfair to our male counterparts? Possibly. But we’re the ones calling the shots here, so that conversation will have to wait!
Whatever her flaws, what’s most important is that our lady is thoroughly and lovingly appreciated for exactly what she’s got going on. If she’s got a slim, willowy build or a delightfully creamy series of curves, we want to know that she is exactly what her new lover was looking for. From top to toes, what matters most is that she’s loved - and that she loves herself!
It’s important that our ultimate woman is a shallow, not terribly bright, emotionally immature child in a grown woman’s body. Someone who can’t quite keep pace with day-to-day conversation, and asks questions that are absolutely obvious to - oh! I’m terribly sorry, I was reading my notes from “How To Build The Perfect Reality TV Star.” My mistake! Let’s see, here - ah, yes.
Nobody wants to outpace the heroine of their novel by page six. She doesn’t need to be a genius (although that would be fun!), she just needs to be sharp-witted and fun to spend time with. Most romances put you right in the heroine’s head: it’s important that her head be a fun place to be. She can be conflicted, even confused, and it’s certainly normal for a girl not to know her own mind once in a while; but if she’s a mess, she has to be a charming mess, not a barely-functioning ditz.
The important bit! She can be reluctant, or nervous, or maybe she’s been burned before and she’s not sure she can love again, but damn, she’s gotta have heart. There’s a reason that stereotypes run from “well-intentioned ditz” to “hooker with a heart of gold” (wouldn’t that be a novel!) - without heart, the whole affair is moot. Romance heroines and volcano cakes have a vital thing in common: a sweet, molten center.
That being said, it’s important, much like the brains, that she not be too gooey. A good romance novel heroine is full of love to give; a great romance novel heroine isn’t exactly sure if she’s in the mood to give all that nonsense away just yet. She should be a little jaded, a little wary, and come to her lover with a challenge: are you worth it?
Moxie, baby! If there’s a trend building here, it’s moxie. A good romance heroine can be anything: rail thin or a whole lotta cushion; a well-intentioned airhead or a calculating genius; a lover or a fighter. What she can’t be is a flat, boring pushover. I’ve had it with heroines who are lead by the nose from scene to scene. What’s the point of them, anyway? If her whole reason for being is to exist as our analogue, in that sweeping love story we’ve always dreamed of, why take away all of her agency? Without a good dose of attitude, the whole thing falls apart.
This isn’t to say that the shy heroine of yesteryear is lost to us forever. Plenty of women in literature have a good “game face” and an underlying layer of snark. (Jane Austen, anyone?) In fact, I’m hugely fond of heroines who seem retiring on the exterior, but have an underlying spirit that carries the day. Perhaps it’s because we’ve all been in situations where we couldn’t voice our bubbling sea of displeasure and had to self-satisfy with simply thinking our insults very, very pointedly, but that particular lady rings true to me. Whether she’s a shouter or a thinker, what matters is that she’s got a backbone.
Ladies: our mission is clear. We have the ingredients, the experience, and the know-how. Away! Our bod, our brains, our heart, our spirit are waiting to be culled from the field. To the cemetery, the lab, the ouiji board! Tonight, we build: The Bride of Frankenlover!
That is, unless you’ve any amendments to make. Assembly of Mad Scientist Romance Novel Lovers, the floor is open: what are your ingredients for the perfect Bride of Frankenlover?