Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All I really need to know about writing women's fiction, I learned from Gone with the Wind

by Maria Geraci

When I first started writing and getting my work critiqued, I noticed a pattern among the comments.

This woman is too stupid to live.”

“Would she really do that?”

“This kind of makes her… unsympathetic.”

In my novels, my female protagonist is the only voice heard on the page. If she’s not someone the reader cares about, then they aren’t going to care about the story. Writing “nice” girls might make a reader feel sympathetic, but they can also make for boring characters. And an overly aggressive heroine who your audience wants brought down a notch or two, isn’t the answer either.

So how did I learn to write a character that the reader will identify with and want to read about and root for till the end?

Everything I learned about writing strong, yet vulnerable female characters I got from reading and watching Gone with the Wind. In between those pages and on the screen is a veritable wealth of wisdom. Like...

Never make your heroine so beautiful that she stops traffic (or draws dozens of beaus to her side at the country picnic).

Give your heroine someone to love/care about other than herself. A reckless father or a decaying mansion will do. Readers love characters with passion.

When someone breaks into the house, have her get a gun. Or a fireplace poker.

Anyone who can look at curtains and sees a cocktail dress, deserves her own book.

Giving birth while a city is burning, being bombed, or without an epidural, makes you a kick ass heroine. Do write those.

Never write a male character named Ashley and expect your audience to buy that he could ever be the hero.

And finally, don't let your heroine go after her best friend's guy. That's kind of unforgivable. Unless you're Emily Giffin. Then you can somehow manage to pull this off and make the book into a NY Times best seller.

Maria Geraci is the author of fun, romantic women's fiction. Her third novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, comes out December, 2010. Visit her website at http://www.mariageraci.com/.


  1. I love this post, Maria! I like strong, spunky female characters who aren't afraid to be what they are...warts and all, so to speak. I think it's important to show flaws in all our characters, because it is the flaws more than other traits we can most relate.
    I remember when I first read HARRY POTTER, I so wanted my girls to read it. Not because of Harry (Although no one could love him more than I), but because of Hermione. I loved that she was strong and a bit different, but she was okay with it. A great role model for young girls.

  2. This is great, Maria! And so true. I always want my characters to ring true . . . and, since no one's perfect, they've got to have flaws and quirks.

    That's part of what makes them not only believable but fun to write!

  3. "Anyone who can look at curtains and sees a cocktail dress, deserves her own book." - I loved this, Maria.

  4. Scarlett is one of my favorite characters. Fun, fun post.

  5. We must have been in the same critique group...!
    Thanks for the post. The curtains to cocktail dress line is great.

  6. Maria, you should make a bumper sticker with that title! Love it! I'm a huge GWTW fan, and, in fact, my first attempt at a full-length manuscript at 19 was a total GWTW rip-off. Scarlett is definitely one of those characters you'd love to hate, but can't. Here's to heroines who stop and think, "WWSD?" before marrying their sister's beau or weeping over the wrong man while letting the right one slip away. ;-)

  7. Oh, Maria, I laugh aloud reading this! You cracked me up with the curtains/cocktail dress line and the one about heroes not being named Ashley ;). You already know I'm a huge fan of your books. I just can't wait for The Boyfriend of the Month Club!!!

  8. Love this! I just read GWTW the first time this year and was amazed by how much I love it.

  9. Gone With The Wind is one of my favorite books and Scarlett one of my favorite heroines. Great post!

  10. Yes, it's the flaws that makes the woman!

    Susan, I love the bumper sticker idea:)

    Thanks for all the fun comments, ladies!

  11. I confess an abiding love for Scarlett. She's so clueless about who she loves & yet so sharp about taking care of business.

  12. And Something Borrowed is being made into a movie. I must check out the release date. I think it's around the holidays? Thanks for the fun post.

  13. Yeah, Carleen, Scarlet is clueless and I think that tiny vulnerability makes her seem human.

    Malena, I can't wait till the movie comes out! I'm not sure, but I think it's a combo of Something Borrowed and Something Blue. Two fantastic chick lit books!

  14. Love Gone with the Wind! Love Scarlett! Love this post!!

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