Help me welcome author Catherine Cruzan to my blog today as she discusses what lies at the heart of a good kick-ass heroine. You’ll be surprised! Enjoy!
The components of a successful story stem from the heart of the heroine. Her perspective is our access to the storyline. Her attitude and approach shape our opinions. Her spirit propels us into her world, bringing it to life. Without that emotional connection, we may as well be standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic. The entire undertaking falls flat.
But when the heroine’s heart is genuine, when there are real stakes hanging in the balance, we become invested, and quickly find ourselves battling demons with Tessa Gray, navigating English society with Elizabeth Bennet, or taming the African wilderness with Karen Blixen.
I crafted the plot of ELFKIND around our heroine, Lariel, beginning with the question: What is in her heart? What does she want from life, and how would she respond to having it all ripped away? Does she rely more on her brain, her wits, or her compassion? Does she have the strength to face the evil burgeoning around her, plotting to take everything else? Is she shrewd enough to stay alive, resourceful enough to find the Elves, tenacious enough to keep trying in the midst of everything falling apart?
It is Lariel’s tenacity that makes her so kick-ass, her determination to prevail rather than be deterred, to stack her resources and set them in motion against the pervasive evils in the world. To succeed, she must tap into all of her strengths—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—with little regard for the size or the nature of the obstacles she confronts head-on every day.
Yet despite her intermediate triumphs along the way, there are the same needling doubts we all suffer. An honest heart has its limitations, its insecurities, its fears. A real kick-ass heroine makes real mistakes. There is conflict in her makeup, flaws in her foundation, tribulation, pain. She needs to conquer many terrible things in order for her to glean her strength, because strength cannot exist without resistance.
When it comes to kickass heroines, we must be prepared to embark on daring adventures which will lead us down the twists and turns of wayward trails. There is rarely exploration or discovery without danger. Our heroine may flinch, but she will never wholly shy away from the risks, because she has her eyes fixed on what she wants, or on what needs to be done. That kind of dedication comes with its own perils.
I did not set out to finish ELFKIND the way I did. I wrote all the way up to the climax, intending a different ending, and it struck me to the core when I realized what needed to happen instead—not because circumstance dictated it. Everything would have been fine if I had stuck to the outline, but fine wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want to compromise what Lariel had learned, or what I had learned in telling her story. The alternate ending is a more powerful testament to the breadth of her heart.
Our kickass heroines get knocked down—a lot—and the hits keep coming. Yet they always find a way to persevere. They strive for more, in their highly capable way, no matter how difficult the challenges. Their courage and resilience set them apart. They embody the remarkable people we want to be.
They are all of these things, because a truly kickass heroine comes from the heart.
About the author
Catherine Cruzan grew up in Bloomington, MN, but Southern California has been her home since 1984. After graduating from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, she has worked as a structures engineer for a number of aerospace companies in the Los Angeles area.
Catherine’s interest in books began as a child with a voracious appetite for reading. She fondly recalls piling onto her parent’s bed with her two brothers while her mother read the Chronicles of Narnia, Treasure Island, Little Women, Nancy Drew or Black Beauty. She moved on to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as a teenager, and Fantasy stories remain her favorite to this day.
Her writing career started with poetry and short stories published in the school newspaper. As an adult, she writes character driven Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction. Her writing education includes Long Beach City College and the UCLA Writers Program. She is currently a member of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society and Orange County Writers.
Some of her many interests include Traveling the world, Steampunk, Victorian London, her Yamaha FZ6R motorcycle, Archery and Tribal Style dance.
Lit Central: http://litcentraloc.com/2014/03/21/excerpt-of-elfkind-by-catherine-cruzan/
Published April 9th 2014 by Hunt Press; Paperback, 300 pages; Author: Catherine Cruzan (Goodreads Author); ISBN: 1625309864 (ISBN13: 9781625309860)
Lariel lived a life of privilege as the daughter of King Tallen and heir to the Tallen throne, until the captain of the king’s guard betrayed the family, murdered her father and claimed the throne for himself.
On the run for her life, alone and afraid, she finds refuge with the elves and discovers in herself a heritage previously undiscovered. She is Elfkind—not fully human—with all the gifts that come with it, unexpected magic to be harnessed, and skills to be learned.
Newly trained and tested, Lariel is determined to regain her throne and free her people. But will her hard-won talents be enough to defeat the darkness waiting for her?