You might say that Kate, the main character in my current novel, is a "thorny" woman. She's angry, impatient, and quick to take offense, and at first, maybe a little hard to like. Her thorns keep people from getting too close to her, which is how she likes it. Because she's been hurt, she protects herself by throwing out some pretty sharp barbs. In the course of the story, she grows and changes; in fact, she blooms. She remains a strong woman, but a much less angry one. (And not completely thorn-free--that's what makes her interesting!) I struggled with developing the character of Kate, because conventional wisdom says a main character has to be likable for readers to engage with her. The choice of pronoun here is deliberate. I suspect most readers, male and female alike, have a much easier time accepting an angry guy as a hero than an angry woman as a heroine. Our cultural expectations run deep and run strong, and that's a hard tide to fight against. We love our cold Mr. Darcys and our mean Mr. Rochesters because we know that underneath they are basically good men with loving hearts. As readers, we give these characters a chance--sometimes for hundreds of pages--before they justify themselves in the eyes of readers. We watch their characters unfold and reveal themselves worthy, not only of our time, but of the heroines they love. We appreciate their sweetness because of, not in spite of, their thorny natures. (By the way, did it occur to anyone else that Mr. Rochester's home is actually called Thornfield? Gotta love serendipity.) As readers, we embrace male characters who are--dare I say it?--prick-ly. And what's good for the hero ought to be good for the heroine as well.
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