Anita Blake. Eve Dallas. Buffy Summers and last but not least, Diana Reyes. What is it about these heroines that appeals to modern women? How do you create such a sometimes perplexing heroine and once you do, what do you do with her?
A good tool for developing such a heroine is the Archetype. Archetypes analyze the various aspects of a persona and what happens when someone either achieves balance or goes to the “Dark Side”.
The archetype that best matches our concept of the empowered heroine is the Diana Archetype which is named after the goddess in Roman and Greek mythology.
Diana is the goddess of the moon. She is often portrayed as a protector and nurturer. These traits began early in life, when Diana helped her mother give birth to her Diana’s twin — Apollo. Diana is always ready to assist others, but vulnerable herself. She does not have good relationships with others. In particular, she does not interact well with men, often being competitive and challenging. Diana even killed her one great love — Orion — in an act of rashness when Apollo challenged her to shoot an arrow at a distant object which later turned out to be Orion.
The traits exhibited by the goddess Diana (and attributed to her archetype) are personified in many of today’s more popular butt-kicking heroines. These traits are:
1. Self-confident and Independent
2. Protective and helpful to others
3. Motivated and able to accomplish her goals
5. Equates physical strength with mental fortitude
(hence the kick-butt attitude!)
All of the above traits appear to be good ones, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If the Diana heroine cannot find balance, the above traits will lead to someone who:
1. Suppresses her emotions, thereby appearing cold or distant
2. Is not a nurturer and cannot handle passive or clingy people.
3. Allows her single-mindedness to damage or hurt
others as she strives to reach her goals.
4. Can’t deal with competition, especially men.
5. Is contemptuous of vulnerability which makes her
appear inhuman when faced with someone weak.
Many of the Diana heroines with whom you are familiar exhibit the above negative traits. In fact, it is typical to see Diana heroines regularly battling these darker aspects. This battle appeals to readers. Who hasn’t experienced puzzlement at why a Diana heroine pushes away a powerful and very sexy alpha hero? Think Eve and Roarke. Buffy and Spike. Diana and Ryder.
This struggle in the Diana heroine is what compels us to become involved. It is what makes us root for them since we know that once they achieve that balance, they will triumph in love or in battle.
To grow as an individual, Diana must discover that the love and trust of another person is special to her. She needs to learn to be vulnerable and understand that exhibiting such a trait does not make her weak. Often, this happens to a Diana heroine after she has failed to reach a goal or is tired of the fight. At that point, Diana may look inward to reflect on what is important.
By achieving balance, the heroine will be able to move ahead and find peace in her life. But even this peace is temporary since Diana will always battle the doubt within her. When another challenge arises in her life, she will again need to tackle all her issues in order to maintain equilibrium and remain a hero.
Definitely alpha males. Diana’s lover is physically and/or mentally strong. He is sometimes wounded in some way, which reaches past the shell Diana has placed around her heart. His combination of strength and weakness will challenge Diana’s view of herself.
Diana’s relationship with the hero may start off as true lust. After all, Diana is not afraid to go after what she wants and if the hero will satisfy a need, she will use him for satisfaction. But if she finds balance and the hero is strong enough to break through her shell, not only can true love ensue, it is generally a very powerful love.
But remember, Diana is ever-doubtful so don’t be surprised that as the next challenge arises, the hero will once again need to remind Diana that what they have is special.
Because Diana heroines are ever-doubtful, they are great characters if you plan to create a series. With each story, a new challenge will arise and require our brainy, beautiful butt-kicker to commit herself to that new challenge and her hero!