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The Heroine in Fiction III

In this post I’d like to look at a heroine in terms of her relationship to her father. Sometimes a father’s approval is more important than the mother’s simply because father is the opposite. He is the one that defines the feminine, and this affects the future woman; her sexuality, her ability to relate to men and to seek worldly success. Is it okay to be ambitious? To have power? To make money? to be sexy? All these things the daughter absorbs from her father’s attitude to women. If Dad thinks it’s a bad thing for a woman to be successful, daughter will absorb this also. When we’re young, we see the world and ourselves, through Dad’s eyes, as well as Mum’s. As you look back at your heroine’s past, do you know what her father valued most? Does this correspond with what your heroine values or has she gone for the opposite? Or is Dad simply absent and longed for?


For some young girls father is an ally. This is the father who is supportive and encouraging, rather than patronising, the father who says, ‘go on, you can do it.’ If mother is less ambitious for a daughter, father will become more and more influential. At the very beginning of the story of your heroine you need to know things such as the traits that her father encouraged. Did he give her a nickname? Was this good or bad? It may seem tedious, and may never be used overtly, but all this is incredibly influential stuff for a writer to know.


You may be familiar with the story of the birth of Athena, who sprang out of Zeus’s head as a full grown woman, wearing battle armour and carrying a spear. She never acknowledged her mother, and considered herself duty bound only to her father. Athena was the original ‘Daddy’s Girl’ who sided with Greek heroes and not with women (who, incidentally, also needed divine help). In today’s world the term ‘Daddy’s Girl’ sounds appalling, but in the past it was used widely. If you are writing a story set long ago, it may be wise to closely examine this concept. Your heroine may strive for what her father admires in a woman, and not at all at what is suited to her own abilities and desires.


If the first thing your heroine does is separate from her mother, the second thing she does is separate from her father; then she is able to clarify her attitude to the masculine. This achieved, she looks for like-minded allies; these are usually independent, motivated and moving toward a specific goal. A good role model for success is consciously or unconsciously sought. In the public sphere, men still hold more powerful and/or influential positions than women. Here is a two-edged sword; things are good for the woman if she moves forward with inner confidence, and pursuing her own goals, using her own talents. If she takes her confidence from imitating male success or basking in male approval, her path lies on very shaky ground. What about your own heroine? What were the cultural myths about women when she was growing up? How do they affect her story?






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