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Irritating Character Traits

Man, I have been out of the loop for days. After my migraine late last week, some mystery illness hit my family. I don’t know what it was. It might be allergies since I’m still feeling the effects of sinus pressure. I haven’t been online for my blog or Twitter or anything for days. I felt quite disconnected. Weird how that happens, huh?

Anyway, as I was trying to ease back into a routine, a post on a forum caught my eye. A writer asked what character traits drive you crazy and it got me to thinking. I read a lot and it’s very rare for me to put a book down. I’ve said before that in general, I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to reading. I can forgive a lot of things (like lack of exterior conflict) if I’m engaged with characters.

I have to admit that I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t come across too many characters that I’ve had real issues with. I’ve been trying to come up with an example, but I can’t. Maybe I’m good at picking out books that I know I’ll like. I’m not sure.

Just because I can’t remember a specific example of a character I despised doesn’t mean that there aren’t instances where I think, “Oh, come on!” Most people have a big problem with TSTL (too stupid to live) heroines. I agree, but I haven’t come across many.

A big pet peeve of mine is heroines who heal too quickly in order to get to the lovin’.

This happens a lot in paranormal romances and romantic suspense (which is probably why I’ve reduced the number of books I read in those categories). If the heroine just got into a huge physically demanding fight, it bugs me that she’s never sore or incapacitated for more than a page or two. I know the author can’t keep the heroine in bed because then the story doesn’t move forward, but it seems like the purpose of having her heal quickly is so she can either get into another fight or get into bed with the hero.

What irritates me even more than the rushed physical healing is the overnight emotional healing of some heroines. When a woman is raped or abused (physically, sexually, emotionally), I have a hard time swallowing the fact that after knowing a guy for a week or so, she’s ready to jump into bed for some fantastic sex. It’s like she instantaneously goes from zero trust to take what you want. If there has been some time between the abuse and the new relationship, I’m okay with that, but it seems like in a lot of books, it’s been a few months, tops.

Maybe the heroes all have magic healing penis power. Again, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a magic penis. (I’m probably going to get hit with mega-spam now that I typed that word into my post twice.)

For me, stories tend to be more about the characters than anything else and if abuse is part of a heroine’s backstory, it should be treated realistically.

Just put it further in her past so that I can recognize that she has distance from it and has had time to deal with it. I don’t need to see her in therapy. I don’t need to know the steps she took to be able to move on. I’ll trust that she’s done whatever she needed. That baggage is still there and the hero will have to come to terms with it. You don’t lose that piece of her; you just make it more believable.

What traits in a heroine make you batty?

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About Shannyn Schroeder

Mom of 3, editor, and contemporary romance writer

10 responses »

  1. For a while, it seemed that along with the kick-a$$ heroine trend, came the invincible heroine. She had super-magical abilities, super-psychic abilities, or some other supernatural traits and of course, could kick anyone’s butt in a fight. Of course, in paranormal romance or urban fantasy, the bad guys will lose and the girl will get her man, but I don’t want to feel like that’s a foregone conclusion from the beginning of the book! And the unrealistically fast healing/falling in love/etc. you mention is one I don’t like either. Yanks me right out of the story. Good post!

    Reply
    • I agree that letting it be too obvious from the beginning is tiresome. We know she’s going to win, that’s why she’s the heroine. Kind of like we know she’s going to land with the hero– it’s a requirement, but we want to enjoy the journey.

      Reply
  2. I read a book with a tstl heroine just last week. I finished it because it was the second in a series and the first book was excellent.
    One of my beta readers once suggested I not have a sex scene right after a big dinner because all that food in her stomach would definitely put her off for a while. Since then, when I read that happening, and it’s often, I do think about it.

    Reply
  3. TSTL is high on the list. I recently read — but not finished — a thriller where the female main character and male side kick were hiding from the armed bad guy in the ladies room and she was screeching — screeching! — at him about being in the ladies room. Having already been shot at and knowing she was being chased. Things didn’t improve after that.

    Being a smart ass. It seems to be a staple of urban fantasy. The characters are private investigators or in some other similar role where they have to get information from other people. So what do they do for they entire book? Make smart ass remarks to everyone and yet everyone still magically gives her the information!

    Reply
    • Hi Linda, I remember reading a review about this book. Of course, I can’t remember where, but that same scene was mentioned and it was enough that I didn’t want to read the book.

      Smart ass doesn’t bother me too much, unless it’s overdone. (but that’s probably because I’m guilty o being a smartass)

      Reply
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  5. I guess the fast healing is the male version of the Glittery Hoo-Ha. http://www.arghink.com/2007/04/09/the-glittery-hooha-an-analysis/

    The golden penis? His penis is so awesome it can overcome abuse, rape and lack of getting to know you time, because of course, it is true love forever.

    Reply
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