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How much time do you spend trying to create the Perfect Woman? She's brilliant, passionate and the life of the party. She can cook, clean, raise children and hold down a job with no problem. There's nothing she can't do.

It's a great thing to dream about but there's a problem – no one, even characters, are perfect. In any movie or novel you read, there is always some obstacle that the heroine has to overcome and these barriers allow the reader to connect emotionally to your character. If you start out with a perfect character then there's no place for them to grow with the reader. There isn't anything compelling them to follow your story and character, wanting to know what will happen next or will she be okay. That doesn't mean she has to have gone through some horrible situation but small problems can mount up, so keep that in mind.

Regardless of the genre there are eight basic heroines.

The Boss is a take charge woman. She demands respect and her goals are her most important things in life. She doesn't accept failure and she won't give up. She's a workaholic, confident, competitive, arrogant, and her attitude must be consistent with her behavior. Imagine how she would act in a situation – I use key words like the ones listed in the previous sentence.

Examples: Working girl climbing a corporate ladder, a pampered princess. Katharine Hepburn is a good example. She's played many 'boss archetypes' (Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter).

The Survivor is mysterious, manipulative and has many charms. She's street smart and her intelligence is always hiding behind a seductive smile but she always keeps her wits. She hides a very strong streak of distrust in anyone and it's second nature to size up everyone in a room the minute she enters. Cynicism guides her every action. Her survival instincts gives her the means to do whatever is necessary to come out ahead. She skates on thin ice and may seem more of a villainess than heroine. Eventually a hero comes who is able to see through the wall she built around herself.

Examples: Margaret Mitchell, who crafted the icon of a Survivor through Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Madonna in Evita, or Bette Davis in just about anything.

The Spunky Kid is funny, supportive, reliable, the All-American Girl. She's not looking to be at the top, just in her own little niche. She's the team player, always ready to lend a hand. She maybe a cheerleader but never captain. She doesn't have any enemies and plenty of friends. Her humor helps her through the bumps of her love life, "ever the bridesmaid" ring a bell? She's more comfortable to hang around the guys than dress up. She never runs away and can forget the differences between her and the hero if it can stop an escalating situation. She also worries for others more than herself.

Examples: Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle, Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, and Janine Garofalo in The Truth About Cats & Dogs.

The Free Spirit is "original", playful, fun loving, acts on a whim and follows her heart, and not head. She sets trends and is always looking for new experiences. She travels through life with a hop, skip and jump always stopping to smell the flowers and admire the colors. She can be a little ditzy but is sincere and willing to help. She scoffs at danger and resists any effort to be pulled to safety, enjoying the excitement and would be high from the adrenaline rush.

Examples: Lucille Ball, Goldie Hawn, Jenna Elfman from Dharma & Greg, and Calista Flockhart in Ally McBeal. These women share sincerity and imagination, with a strong sprinkling of an impulsive need to meddle in their friends' lives.

The Waif is the original damsel in distress. Think Cinderella, Sleepy Beauty, Rapunzel. Her innocence evokes a protective urge from the hero. She has a tremendous amount of will and will endure instead of fighting back. She's pure at heart, too trusting and insecure. She seems untouched by the harshness of the world and is patient and adaptable to any situation. She'll carry on looking for the day she will be free of her suffering but takes little action to bring herself closer to that day. If she's cornered, she will take desperate measures when there is no other option.

Examples: Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits and La Femme Nikita (I guess I could see Nikita as a waif in the beginning).

The Librarian is prim and proper but has a passionate side. She's learned to lead with her brain and not her body. She doesn't wear revealing clothes and always has an answer, which can make her quite stubborn to others opinions. She's serious, efficient, and may have to overcome feelings of inadequacy. She's prefers a well-reason debate to settle differences, is practical and takes a moment to study the situation, trying to find the easiest way to safety. She can take care of herself but wouldn't turn a man down.

Examples: Shelly Long in Cheers, Shirley Jones in The Music Man, (wonderful movie), Ellen Barkin in The Big Easy.

The Crusader is a modern heroine who doesn't scream in fear. She's not a damsel in distress. She has a mission and marches over anyone in her way. This woman is headstrong, tenacious, keeps her eyes on the goal and brushes off any opposition. You can't calm her down or force her to do anything and she doesn't need to be protected. If you aren't helping her, then you're in her way – or even an enemy. So if she has to save or protect something, she's a crusader.

Examples: Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy, Lucy Lawless in Xena, Wonder Woman, BatGirl, Supergirl.

The Nurturer is not always Suzy Homemaker but she takes care of everyone else. She listens, is happy to see you, serene, capable, optimistic, calm, cool, collected and always has the answers. Her role is to take care of family and friends so anyone can depend on her.

Examples: Julie Andrews who played Mary Poppins and Gabrielle from Xena.

(Will eventually post the Eight Male Archetypes.)

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OK, I've got a question. Is it a bad thing if your OFC is a mix of maybe two of the types listed above? I mean, I guess I'm trying to figure out if it's a bad thing if I don't always write "within the rules" that people seem to like to put up for writing. I seem to somehow manage to break some of the rules.

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OK, I've got a question. Is it a bad thing if your OFC is a mix of maybe two of the types listed above? I mean, I guess I'm trying to figure out if it's a bad thing if I don't always write "within the rules" that people seem to like to put up for writing. I seem to somehow manage to break some of the rules.

It's like what Demon said, they are more guidelines than rules. Something to help people start out a character. I've found it useful as a basis when I start sketching characters out, especially if I want to try to write a different type of character.

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hmm... thats pretty interesting, never thought about those before but now that I think about I don't think I've eve come across a heroine who dosent fit within those character molds in some way. Not exactly, mind you (there's usually room for cross-over characteristics), but yeah, I like it.

I think, in general, what I like about a story is when the heroine breaks out of that character mold in some way, that's when you get character development.

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Hmm.... OK, well, thank you, Demon, Yuki, and Rainy. I guess I just tend to over-think things, and worry. Especially when I fail to get feedback on my stories. It makes me wonder what I've/if I've done something wrong. I do try to have my characters grow. I just don't always know if I do it right.

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This is an excellent resource for writers of original characters. Thanks for putting this up on this site. Fatal Flaws should always be considered in any original character, and it is noce to see that there are guidelines ot help a writer create such flaws by having a spelled out female specific crib of sorts. :)

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I can totally relate to the comments about overthinking, I’m accused of doing that with everything!!  When it comes to character building, however, I kind of treat it the same way as I do when I develop the general plot of the story.  I create a Word Doc entitled “Cast of Characters for...” and list what role they play in the story.  It is seriously a big help when you’re working on a story that ends up being presented in parts, like what’s going on with a story I’ve been working on for a while.  I made the fatal mistake of falling in love with my villain and that took the story in a direction I didn’t want to go.

Edited by Avaloyuru

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2 hours ago, Avaloyuru said:

I can totally relate to the comments about overthinking, I’m accused of doing that with everything!!  When it comes to character building, however, I kind of treat it the same way as I do when I develop the general plot of the story.  I create a Word Doc entitled “Cast of Characters for...” and list what role they play in the story.  It is seriously a big help when you’re working on a story that ends up being presented in parts, like what’s going on with a story I’ve been working on for a while.  I made the fatal mistake of falling in love with my villain and that took the story in a direction I didn’t want to go.

I think its fascinating to hear other writers talk about their process for starting a story and character building. It’s so different and relatable at the same time. I tend to just write the very first scene, and then I put all the work into plotting out the character’s personalities and flaws, based on how they performed in that first scene. For me, its easier to see them as a well rounded character that way, and feel they have a life of their own. When I plan the characters before writing, I tend to have trouble connecting to them because I don’t know them yet! 

… And I just gotta say I feel you. Many a sexy villain has felled my plans. 

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I don’t fully work out a character either until I start writing.  That’s where backstory is useful.  What I tend to do, though, is narrow down an approximate age/gender and use a randomizer to help select some traits.  If needed, I’ll figure out relatives too, that’s where the bulk of the characters in my database come from.  And I start writing, seeing what traits do and don’t work.

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For me, I start forming the main protagonist in my mind as I begin writing whatever idea popped into my head. It's slightly different for fanfiction, but the process is still similar. I then start wringing out side characters, other protagonists(some side characters count as fellow protagonists depending on where the story goes), and antagonists. For the original stories I tend not to post(yet), it's kind of one huge ass-pull. A lot of it, I need to refine and edit to make it all flow well.

Edited by Arian-Sinclair

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On 2/6/2018 at 9:22 PM, CloverReef said:

I think its fascinating to hear other writers talk about their process for starting a story and character building. It’s so different and relatable at the same time. I tend to just write the very first scene, and then I put all the work into plotting out the character’s personalities and flaws, based on how they performed in that first scene. For me, its easier to see them as a well rounded character that way, and feel they have a life of their own. When I plan the characters before writing, I tend to have trouble connecting to them because I don’t know them yet! 

… And I just gotta say I feel you. Many a sexy villain has felled my plans. 

I already have so many author created characters to choose from that it’s almost ridiculous!   Different things can inspire an entire story for me, even reading a simple quote I found on Pinterest can result in a flash commercial in my mind for a storyline.  That’s when I sit down and take it from there, fleshing out the story and picking which of my characters I’ll cast as actors.  I know, kind of bass ackwards I suppose, but it works for me for the most part.  The only real problem I have is being overly critical of myself and my writing.  That’s why I create the story outline, kind of like a book report on a book that hasn’t been written yet, and try to stay on target.  Unfortunately, that’s why I end up with multiple stories going on at the same time.  It’s also the reason it takes me so long to publish a story, I have to feel comfortable enough with where the story is going so I know I’ll stay on target.  I know things happen but it’s disappointing when I’m reading a story someone else has posted and I’m really getting into it then it just stops and I’m left hanging.  I want to do everything I can to avoid that.

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