Following on from my blog last Monday where I talked about writing heroes, this post looks at the heroines.
Unfortunately, even more so than having younger male characters, readers like to read about younger heroines. Although some people have professed strongly that they like reading about older women, it doesn’t relate to book sales.
Why? Because the readership for erotic romances is mostly woman – and mostly women over 35, who are likely to be in a relationship/married and who want to imagine what it was like to fall in love all over again.
Now, there is nothing to say that women over 35 can’t fall in love (and do!) but readers like to recall the delights of first love. I even had one publisher say they don’t want female characters with any baggage – so no divorcees. That isn’t to say these sorts of books aren’t written – but are they the most successful from that author?
Out of my 20 MF/Menage books, only four have older women – and none of those have sold particularly well in comparison. Out of 30k books I have sold, 20k of those sales have heroines in their twenties such as in Submissive Training.
In addition, readers like to forget about any middle aged body issues or issues caused by having children. So no wrinkles, no hot flushes, no weak bladders (and definitely no references to periods – have you ever read of a heroine in a BDSM story who starts leaking blood while tied up? Having, said this, in Kink After Dinner I do have a heroine who refers to her hot flushes. I may have put off any potential readers, though!)
And rarely do the female characters have children at the start of the book – unless they are a baby and it invariably turns out to be the hero’s secret baby. Why? Children get in the way of the characters having sex! My only heroine with kids is Beth in Kink After Dinner and hers are pretty much grown up. I deliberately wanted to write about a woman of a similar age to myself (in my fifties) for a change. (I know - she doesn't really look in her fifties on the book cover, does she! There are limited stock images of older women).
Add to this another dimension – the reader likes to put herself in the heroine’s shoes and when she does she likes to fantasize that (in addition to being young again), she is beautiful with a fantastic figure and she has long flowing locks (or short elfin look if you are reading this and you hate your long hair) – colour will depend what you have always dreamed of. Me, personally – I would love to have long blonde hair but it doesn’t suit my colouring or my frame (my hair if very thick and coarse when long) so I love to read about blonde heroines. Oh, and if you are short, like me, you will want your heroines to be tall and leggy. If you are tall and leggy, you may want your heroines to be petite. Those who are flat chested may want to read about curvy women and vice versa.
It’s hard to get the right mix. I deliberately try to change my female characters so they aren’t all tall busty young blondes despite my own fantasies. I even had a skinny heroine who was taller than the hero in The Sub Who Switched. I just felt like being realistic for a change (not one of my bestsellers!). However, you can’t go wrong with a tall beautiful blonde with flowing locks and gorgeous figure.
What about heroines’ careers? At least we have some leeway here – with the heroes, readers want the men to be leaders – so kings or CEOs or well paid jobs such as lawyers. But for the women we authors can be more creative – I’ve had an women who run an art gallery, the owner of a bar, a sports coach, schoolteachers, administrators, and a Christmas fairy, amongst others!
Now, I’ve talked about their looks and their jobs, but what about their personalities? Readers generally want strong dominant men – so that implies the women are submissive but if you make them too much like a doormat they lose their personality. If you make them too feisty, particularly in a BDSM story, readers will complain they are too bratty. My favourite female characters (either to write or read) are the ones where the man has his work cut out. I had great fun writing Rebecca in The Submission Challenge – where the heroine has the challenge of submitting for 24 hours even though she thinks it is against her character (it was a challenge for the hero, too!).
And in Bounty Hunters’ Captive I was giggling as I came up with one liners for Felissa. “You have shit chance of me being either compliant or your slave.”
Or maybe I am just using my characters to say what I would say! Either way, whether tall or short, dark or blonde, young or old – I will continue to write the characters that beg to be created.