What’s Wrong With Being Nice? The Likable Heroine Effect


I’m hap­py to have Ale­sha Esco­bar, author of The Gray Tow­er Tril­o­gy, back on my site. She is tour­ing with the Addict­ed to Hero­ines Blog Tour (see the love­ly badge in the mar­gin) so I encour­age you to take a gan­der and see who else is involved. This time Ale­sha tells us about the qual­i­ties of a lik­able hero­ine, and as usu­al, she’s got it spot on. Thanks Ale­sha for stop­ping by again!

HawkgirlCreative Commons License Wilton Tay­lor via Comp­fight

Do you remem­ber the news sto­ry about women get­ting depressed using Face­book? Appar­ent­ly some women would read up on oth­ers’ sta­tus updates filled with on-point hair days, per­fect chil­dren, glam­orous jobs, and unicorns–and log off feel­ing like crap.

I’m not sur­prised.

It’s inevitable to com­pare our­selves to oth­ers, and when we feel that a cer­tain sta­tus or behav­ior is unat­tain­able, it leaves us feel­ing some­thing is lack­ing, or that we are lack­ing. The same goes for our fic­tion­al heroines–when we see the per­fect Mary Sue, we sort of cringe and fail to relate. We’re not per­fect, and when we pick up a book, we don’t want to encounter a hero­ine who’s going to get every­thing right all the time. Yet, I’m hes­i­tant to throw in my tow­el and pro­claim we need to start writ­ing and read­ing crude, “unlik­able” female heroes.

The idea of the lik­able hero­ine is one that rests on the expec­ta­tion that a hero­ine be appro­pri­ate in her behav­ior, sweet, nice, or “the good girl.” She has to be likable…right? There’s no room to be depressed, self­ish, a user, or a bitch.

For those who cri­tique the “lik­able hero­ine” being placed on a pedestal, I agree with them that there’s a prob­lem with this. Women are com­plex human beings, and we run the range of lik­able to unlik­able. Why can’t our hero­ines reflect the same?

Still, a female ver­sion of a jerk anti-hero isn’t all too palat­able either. So let’s strike some mid­dle ground. It’s okay for our hero­ines to be “real,” to have flaws, and make mis­takes. And it’s also okay for her to be noble, brave, and–gasp–kind.

We like hero­ines we can relate to, but many of us also like them to be the torch­bear­ers of real­ly cool qual­i­ties and per­son­al­i­ty traits. At least that’s what attracts me to a hero­ine. Give me the intel­li­gent Eliz­a­beth Ben­nets who find love, the Eowyns who refuse to be caged, or the fierce Brit­o­marts who hold their heads high.

If I could be a hero­ine, I’d want to pos­sess some of these traits. So what’s wrong with being nice or lik­able? Noth­ing at all. Just remem­ber that there are deep­er lay­ers, desires, and qual­i­ties to the lik­able hero­ine, and instead of rest­ing on sim­ply one aspect, try explor­ing the whole per­son.

authoralesha Twit­ter



Wow. That’s Really Good.


I tend to scribble a lot

I say, I promise, I’m not sen­si­tive. My feel­ings won’t be hurt. I want you to tear it up! Tell the truth. Tell me what if any­thing is wrong with this sto­ry and I don’t want you to hold any­thing back.

What do I get?

Wow. That’s real­ly good.

Thanks for noth­ing. Just thanks.

At the risk of sound­ing arro­gant, which I’ve often been accused of any­way, I already believe my writ­ing is good. What I don’t believe is that it is per­fect. So, when I’ve giv­en my writ­ing to some­one for cri­tique and input, I want some good to hon­est, this is what I think is wrong with your sto­ry, stuff.

Believe me when I say that if I don’t think your advice will work for me, I will not use it. I don’t expect you to have hard feel­ings about that, and I promise not to have hard feel­ings because you sug­gest­ed it. But, “Wow. That’s real­ly good,” doesn’t work for me. It is no help. You may as well have not read the sto­ry. I’m glad you were enter­tained but, real­ly? Accord­ing to some close sources of mine, my head is already swollen to the size of the moon, so do you real­ly think I need you pump­ing it up even fur­ther? As a mat­ter of fact, if you start pump­ing that hot air, I’m liable to think you’re lying and that the sto­ry flat out sucks.

I recent­ly asked some­one to take a peek at a sto­ry that I wrote over a year ago and for the very first time, I got some tru­ly help­ful feed­back. It was so help­ful that I am busi­ly rewrit­ing this sto­ry and am feel­ing more con­fi­dent than ever about sub­mit­ting it when it is done. This per­son told me that there were some real­ly love­ly parts, and that there were also some glob­al issues that need­ed to be cor­rect­ed. Free to take or leave this advice, I mulled it over for a cou­ple of weeks, and along with some sug­ges­tions that I received via some of the good folks over at the Online Writ­ing Work­shop for Sci­ence Fic­tion, Fan­ta­sy, and Hor­ror, I feel real­ly con­fi­dent about this sto­ry.

Uh oh. Is that my head that bumped the ceil­ing or the oth­er way around.

All jok­ing aside, cri­tiquing, beta read­ing, inputting, what­ev­er you want to call it, is seri­ous. At least it is to me. And as ungrate­ful as I may sound, please just save it if all you have to offer is, “Wow. That’s real­ly good,” because I already think its good. Oth­er­wise I wouldn’t be show­ing it to you.


Vacation Perspective


For the first time since I can recall, I’ve tak­en a prop­er away from home vaca­tion. My chil­dren and I flew back to Con­necti­cut where I grew up to vis­it with my moth­er. The six day excur­sion has been enlight­en­ing, but not in the ways one might think.

1. If you know any­thing about Con­necti­cut in the fall, then you’re aware that this is some of the most beau­ti­ful coun­try­side you could ever have the plea­sure of see­ing. My chil­dren and I went for walks. We went hik­ing. We went for dri­ves through the coun­try­side. The entire time my kids and I kept remark­ing in com­par­i­son, “You can’t get this in Hous­ton.” When nature beck­ons, one will heed the call.

The les­son: While in this neo­phyte era we are more attached than ever to our elec­tron­ics and gad­gets, we are still ani­mals. We are attached to this Earth in the most mys­te­ri­ous ways. We are influ­enced by her shifts and hic­cups and rhythms. There is no bet­ter time to rec­og­nize this than when traips­ing through the woods. We should do this more often to gain a bet­ter appre­ci­a­tion and respect of the world we live in.

Hiking In West Rock Park, New Haven

Hik­ing In West Rock Park, New Haven

2. I am ashamed to admit this, but about eight years have passed since I last saw my moth­er.  When I saw her this time I noticed three things: she has mel­lowed a lot, she has main­tained the same habits for good or for bad and she looks old. The last one there makes me choke up… A lot.

The les­son: there is a verse in the Holy Qur’an (21:35) that says, “Every soul shall taste of death.” My mother’s mor­tal­i­ty hit me smack in the face. But, so did my own. None of us lives for­ev­er, there­fore we are oblig­ed to live our best life now. Be deter­mined to live to the best of your abil­i­ty a life with­out regrets. Make choic­es you believe in and be will­ing to live with the con­se­quences. Love and respect the peo­ple who deserve it, and even some who don’t. Make your good dreams come true if you can.

3. In case you aren’t already aware I am a breast oncol­o­gy nurse. Just before I left Hous­ton, I was con­front­ed with the future prospect of receiv­ing into my nurs­ing care some­one who about five years ago com­mit­ted a griev­ous wrong against me. With­out giv­ing details, this wrong was such that I felt it damn near unfor­giv­able. When I learned that I might have to con­front this per­son in the posi­tion of their nurse, their care­giv­er, I was at emo­tion­al odds. Old anger quick­ly rose to the sur­face as well as gut twist­ing anx­i­ety, but then those emo­tions dis­ap­peared to be replaced by some oth­er emo­tion I am still at a loss to name. I still don’t know how I should feel about this, but I can artic­u­late how do I feel now, a week lat­er.

I don’t wish the worst for this per­son although I once swore I wouldn’t spare spit for them even if they were on fire. I’m not doing some hap­py karmic dis­as­ter dance while curs­ing their name. I’m not hap­py that this per­son is sick. But I’m not sad either. And, I think that’s good enough for now. I’ve come a long way.

The les­son: Peo­ple talk about for­give­ness like it’s a pret­ty new shirt you can pull on when you feel like it. Well, if for­give­ness is a pret­ty new shirt, then its an expen­sive one. It may look good on the wear­er and it may make them feel great but I think it requires some seri­ous coinage to acquire. In the world of for­give­ness, I’m low­er mid­dle class. I’m a work-in-progress. So, I’m giv­ing myself a lit­tle pass here with the caveat that I will keep try­ing to be a bet­ter per­son, one who works hard to acquire the wealth of for­give­ness.

Is there any­thing that has been weigh­ing on you? Some­thing that chal­lenges your spir­it? Feel like you’ve been com­ing up short? Give your­self a break too. Some­times we should for­give our­selves first. But don’t for­get the caveat.

East Rock Park

East Rock Park, New Haven

4. I thought that being sur­round­ed by the bucol­ic beau­ty of Con­necti­cut would inspire me to write the most enlight­ened prose. It didn’t.

The Les­son: Some­times a vaca­tion should be just that. Time away from it all.