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Why I Pushed My Heroine off a Cliff . . . Almost

Photobucket [1]Therese here. Please welcome today’s guest, author Connie Briscoe [2], who’s here today to talk about the necessity of being hard on our protagonists. Connie is the author of seven novels, one novella, and one nonfiction book. Her debut, Sisters and Lovers, sold more than 100,000 hardcover copies and about 500,000 copies in paperback. Her work has appeared on the bestseller lists of the The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly.

Her latest novel, Money Can’t Buy Love, released on June 27th. It’s the story of a money-and-man-plagued photographer who wins the lottery and, suddenly, the perfect man. Will she wise up, or lose it all? Said The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

[A]n entertaining story that leaves you feeling pretty good about your cash-strapped existence.


Why I Pushed My Heroine off a Cliff . . . Almost

I’m sure most women remember reading (or listening to) fairy tales of the beautiful princess riding off into the sunset with her charming prince and living happily ever after. Variations of that theme even seep into many grownup tales and not only in romance novels but also in relationship novels, chick lit, women’s fiction, mysteries, and thrillers. There’s often a pretty girl, a sexy, hunky, desirable guy, and a happily-ever-after ending.

Yet real life is rarely like this. We gain too much weight, we get cellulite and wrinkles and saggy skin. Couples argue, fight, cheat on each other, and grow apart. Most relationships–whether marriage, living together, or just dating—don’t last forever. And even when they do, we soon discover after riding off into the sunset that our mate really is not perfect after all. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we will come to realize that we aren’t perfect either. That together we create this imperfect union, despite any love we may continue to have for one another.

So why are we so soft on our fictional heroines? Why do we usually make our female lead characters flawless or nearly so and give them happy-go-lucky endings? I’ve often asked myself these questions even as I created beautiful lead characters who generally got what they wanted in the end. I was afraid to deviate from the norm, afraid that no one would buy my books if they lacked the requisite happy endings. A couple of times, editors even suggested that I make my heroine more attractive or more appealing in some way. I was encouraged to write happier endings because that’s “what readers want.”

Photobucket [3]But do they really? All the time? In my latest novel Money Can’t Buy Love, I decided to try something different. I created an obviously flawed lead character. Magazine photographer Lenora Stone isn’t perfect; far from it. She struggles with her weight. She lacks poise and confidence. In short, she’s like many of us. Then I asked myself, what would such a vulnerable woman do if she suddenly came into a fortune and captured the attention of the man of her dreams? Would she smarten up, gain confidence, and do the right thing? Or would she blow it all?

The ending of Money Can’t Buy Love is what I would consider believable. It’s not joyful, it’s not sad. It’s real. I’m going through a rocky, roller-coaster ride in my personal life and I have little tolerance for mushy meandering. I may be taking a risk in terms of sales but I choose to believe that readers are more diverse, more adventurous than we sometimes give them credit for.

What do you think? Are you addicted to happy endings in your fiction as a reader? As a writer? The floor is yours. 

Learn more about Connie on her website [2], or by following her on Facebook [4] and Twitter [5]. Write on!

Photo courtesy Flickr’s suvodeb [6]