How I Develop a Heroine

Readers often ask how an author develops the heroine of his or her book. The temptation for a male author is to use his wife or girl friend as the heroine. I will admit that for my first book, Chased Across Australia, I did just that except that Chased Across Australia is not a romance, it is a thriller. All of the major characters are married so the only romance is the love they share with their mates. There are not even any romantic subplots. Technically in Chased Across Australia, I used my wife in the role of a co-protagonist. She and her husband are chased by terrorists and must work together against the antagonists to survive. In that book it helped for them to be in a stable marriage. By chance, the antagonists are also a couple in a strong marriage.

My second book, My Knight in Shining Armor, is a romance dedicated to a college friend who died in Vietnam. Of course he is the hero. In a romance, the hero is the man who is attracted to the romantic heroine and must strive to win her heart in spite of obstacles. Because the heroine is the woman who he is pursuing, she must be a special lady. She must be beautiful and charming enough to catch his attention in the first chapter, but illusive enough that by chapter three some seemingly insurmountable obstacle keeps them apart. For My Knight in Shining Armor, I blended together several girls who George had dated in college. I gave an edge to the personality of the girl I thought George loved the most.

Of course the personality traits that made these girls desirable to George also attracted other suitors to the heroine. This meant I had to give each of these suitors an undesirable trait that turned off the heroine so that she was ultimately attracted to George’s kind, loving and courageous personality.

My third book, Reducing Medical Costs (at the Cost of Health), is another thriller in which a group of protagonists, medical professionals, must deal with the policies of bureaucrats that endanger lives and with the hit men who are trying to cut costs by prematurely killing expensive patients. Because it has two romantic subplots, two of the protagonists are also romantic heroes. Both of these protagonists become widowed during the book. For the first one, I looked at two charming widows in our neighbor hood and combined their personalities. Why would not a newly widowed neighbor not be attracted to either of these women, and especially a combination of the two? The other protagonist is an emergency room doctor, so I gave him a nurse to fall in love with. For this nurse, I used a school nurse who had served at one of the schools where I taught. She was ideal for the role, so I only made minor adjustments. I am sure she will make an excellent second wife for the grieving doctor.

My next novel will be Stoned for His Faith, and will be released in December or January. It is a Christian thriller in which a pastor writes a book instructing Christians how to witness to Muslims. Of course, there is an enraged mullah who is insulted by the book and leads a party of Muslims to attack him. Because it is a Christian thriller, there would be no need for heroines, except that I have three romantic subplots. Because the protagonist is a widower, I have a widow living next door who is trying hard to use her cooking skills to start a relationship. A man needs more than just good meals, and even more than an attractive female body to get a romance going, so he eventually disappoints the widow next door.

In the mean time our protagonist feels called to reopen six little churches on an Indian reservation. There he meets a most charming woman who is the psychologist at the tribal clinic. There is an immediate attraction between the two, but she does not have Indian features. He thinks she must be a contract worker who will soon disappear back to wherever she is from. She thinks he has promised to marry his former next door neighbor. Both fear that a romance would become a disappointment. It was a real challenge to get a serious relationship going between the protagonist and the psychologist. This woman had to be professional and interested, like the protagonist, in helping people. She also had to share his love for hiking and camping. I more or less made the psychologist out of whole cloth, giving her personality traits that would have attracted me if I had been the protagonist. All I can say about the results of this romantic subplot, is that when one’s life is in danger, it is wonderful to have a loving woman at one’s side.

The second subplot is between a high school girl and the place kicker for the football team. Both were modeled after former students of mine. While they are minor characters, their romance helpes move the plot forward.

By this time, I was feeling sorry for the former next door neighbor. I had modeled her after a teacher with whom I had taught. This teacher has two endearing physical features: Her jet black hair did not even start to turn gray until she was in her mid seventies, and her fine complexion always looked ten years younger than her age. While her beauty and her cooking skills made her a temptation for the widowed pastor, they made her the perfect soul mate for the always hungry man who she meets late in the story.

I have also written The Richard Tracy Series, three novellas about a retired detective and a retired chef. (Published as e-books.) They are attracted by the fact they are both athletic in their retirement and they are both avid gardeners. They make a perfect pair except that he is a marathon runner while she is a serious bicycle rider. They meet on a two-day charity bike ride, but Richard really does not enjoy cycling. He has been encouraged by his adult children to join them on the bike ride. On the other hand, Mary Beth thinks cycling is much more fun than running. Running is something she only did in her youth to get ready for softball season.

How can a runner who hates cycling get along with a cyclist who thinks running is just hard work? Of course they are bonded together by things they have in common such as gardening, but this contrast in athletic specialties actually further bonds them as they each make sacrifices to support the other in his or her choice of sport. By the way, she is not a weakling. In some books, Richard must rescue her. In others, she must rescue Richard. So far through three novellas, they very happy and committed to each other. I hope this love will thrive through two or three more novellas.

In real life, a man and woman must be somewhat compatible to have a successful romance. Likewise in fiction, the author must find the right man and right woman to write a romance or even to write a romantic subplot in a book of another genre. Hopefully the reader will think the author simply threw the perfect man and the perfect woman into the plot, and eventually they lived happily ever after. It should look this easy, but in truth, it is hard work creating the right romantic heroine for her romantic hero.

More information about these books can be found on


About Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher. Now writing fiction. His books are CHASED ACROSS AUSTRALIA, MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR and REDUCING MEDICAL COSTS (AT THE COST OF HEALTH). He has also started a series of novelas called THE RICHARD TRACY SERIES. Residence: New Mexico, USA Hobbies: gardening, animals and running. website
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