Bad as I Wanna Be – Character or Heroine?
Lexy Cooper is the protagonist of my mystery series set in the videogame business. You’ll notice I didn’t use the word “heroine.” There’s a reason for that. She’s not heroic. She’s not a role model. I don’t want Lexy to be a good girl. To always do the right thing. To know all the answers. That’s boring as hell.
Remember Gone with the Wind? Author Margaret Mitchell said that Melanie was the true hero of her book–genteel and loyal and long-suffering. Not Scarlett. Seriously? Who the hell ever gave a crap about Melanie except maybe to wish she’d hurry up and die so Scarlett could have Ashley and realize he was a dumbass? But, I digress.
Scarlett is more interesting than Melanie, and much more fun to read about. Even when when she’s doing stupid, obnoxious things. Even though you think, “Ohhhh Scarlett, stay away from your sister’s boyfriend…” you can’t help but root for her and be fascinated.
Lexy’s a Scarlett. Not a Melanie. Lexy’s not quiet and shy. She won’t do the right thing even if it hurts. She’s going to do what she wants. What feels good. What’s easy.
When I was about a third of the way through writing Schooled, a friend of mine read it and his feedback surprised me. He said “Lexy’s a character and I want her to be the heroine. She does not require the same flaws and foibles we possess. Characters need to be better than us.”
I disagree. I write the kind of stories and characters that I’d like to read. And I don’t want to read about perfect people. Perfection is dull. Flaws are what make people interesting, and Lexy’s got a whole host of flaws. Not one gimmick flaw like she’s an alcoholic or illiterate or narcoleptic. She’s just a normal-ish woman who is a bit immature, rather selfish, frequently tardy, and almost always up for a good fuck.
When she does bad things she doesn’t do them because she’s dumb, and doesn’t know better but because she wants to do them. She chooses the bad thing.
Here’s what some readers have to say about Lexy–good and bad:
- Lexy’s the chick girls want to be and the chick every guy wants to do.
- A character that isn’t afraid of her sexuality and wields it well is quite refreshing.
- Smart, tough, mean in a good way, sexy, fearless.
- Lexy’s sex life is just as interesting as the murder she is trying to help solve
- the main character is, at times, hard to like
- Lexy is the epitome of strong female who knows what she wants and gets it by any means possible.
- She’s able to use her femininity and sexuality without losing her dignity
- Lexy Cooper is a smart, sexy, but very human heroine
- Lexy is a flawed and irreverent heroine that you can’t help but like.
- Lexy Cooper is highly intelligent, unabashedly irreverent and charmingly flawed
- Lexy is a bit like a latter-day femme fatale turned gumshoe, something the old hard-boiled detective stories never imagined.
- she’s perfectly willing to use her sexuality to get what she wants, and she participates in the cliche of falling for “bad boys.”
- Lexy is a character I find myself thinking about even weeks after finishing the novel
Readers have a love-hate relationship with Lexy. Which I think is awesome. And it’s a challenge, too. How far down can I take Lexy and keep readers willing to follow? I guess we’ll find out. In closing, I think this reviewer summed up best what I’m trying to do with Lexy Cooper as a character:
“You’ll cheer Lexy on and you’ll say ‘WTF are you doing, Lexy?,’ because Lexy doesn’t read like a character, she really feels like a three-dimensional person.”