Action Heroines by Dale Mayer

Freelance writer Dale Mayer lives in the beautiful Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Canada.  She’s multi-pubbed in nonfiction but her true love is the stories that weave through her mind. For the past nine years, she’s written around the daily responsibilities of being a single mother of four and still squeezes in time to produce new fiction manuscripts each year.

In fiction, she writes taut psychological suspense with romance and paranormal elements.  She has recently branched out into both mystery and urban fantasy books for young adult with the occasional vampire book thrown in just for fun.  Dale was recently named as a finalist in Brava’s Writing with the Stars Contest.

She’s prolific with her nonfiction work as well. Check out her website page for more information.

When it comes to action heroes – I’m all about action heroines.

Who wouldn’t want the moves of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider or the unforgettable Ripley in the Alien series?  How about icons like Sarah Connor in the Terminators or Selene from Underworld?  These action women span two types.  The first are like Selene and Lara Croft, where the women have been trained to fight, where the action is an integral part of the character’s normal behaviour.  Then there are the other type like Ripley and Sarah Connor.  These women were happy in their everyday lives until circumstances forced them to stand and fight for their lives.  Their action scenes develop and change over the duration of the movie because they had no fighting skills to start with.

The first group of women are ones readers and viewers want to be like.  It triggers our wish fulfillment to be something other than we are.  The second group of women are ones we identify with because these women were normal – like us.  We don’t necessarily want to go through what they’ve been through, but we want to be the ones that triumph through our own adversity – like they have.
When writing books with action scenes, you need the reader to identify in some way with the character in order to take the reader on the journey throughout the book.  Once they are willing to suspend belief and follow you – you’ve got them hooked.  To do this the character’s actions have to fit the character.  They can learn to be action heroes throughout the book, but they can’t start that way if it doesn’t fit the character.

That’s up to you the writer, to do.  Start the character with the skill level they have and make the action scenes believable.  Hook the reader with the conflict then lead them all the way to the end by growing your characters.  Lara Croft is an obvious kick ass kind of action hero and she never lets you down from the start of the movie to the end.  She still doesn’t get everything she goes after – in fact after one amazing fight scene; she actually loses as the invaders steal what they came for.  But by the end of the movie, she’s there and there’s no give in her – she fights to the end – and of course wins.

How important is that win at the end?  It depends on the character arc. The character has to win – at something important.  But that win can also mean they walk away.  It’s all about the character – even for action heroes.

Who are your favorite action heroines?

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9 responses to “Action Heroines by Dale Mayer

  1. I can’t pinpoint a particular heroine but the type I like are the heroines who have to use what they have around to defend themselves. Taking a pencil and stabbing someone in the arm to get away. Or beating back a mugger with an umbrella.

    I remember a story where someone who was trained in Martial Arts used her umbrella to beat back a mugger.

    Then, there were several movies with scenes where the heroine fought the assailant in the kitchen and manages to get her hands on a frying pan. Even though the heroine was not trained in martial arts, she managed to defend herself and put a dent in the skull of her attacker.

    On the subject of winning, I agree that the hero/heroine does not have to win all the battles. That can increase the tension in the story. But, there’s always a ‘but,’ I believe they must win the last battle or the story will disappoint.

    An example of this was a movie made in the 70’s that really disappointed me. (I think it starred Peter Fonda.) His character along with two others did not play good guys, but the story portrayed them to be better than the sheriff who chased them. It made me root for them to escape the tyrannical sheriff’s grasp. They escaped at the end of the movie only to have their car be hit by a train. The story did not end happily. Nor was I very happy either.

    Dennis Clarkston
    AKA Clark Stone

  2. I just discovered the name of that film which the ending disappointed me. It is called “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.” It was supposed to have been a box office hit in 1974. I did not care for it because of the ending.

    Dennis H. Clarkston
    AKA Clark Stone

  3. Hi Dennis,

    I so agree about a book/movie having to have a satisfactory ending. It doesn’t always have to be the same ‘happy ever after’ but it has to resolve the conflict from the storyline. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that movie. I’ll check out the synopsis on it so I can see what you meant. I also don’t like movies/books where they kill off the main character. I think it’s George R. Martin who kills off his characters in his books and in Jeepers Creepers 1 the main character dies at the end of the movie. Didn’t like it at all.

    Thanks so much for stopping by today and a very merry holiday season to you!

    Dale

  4. Hi Dale,

    One of my favorite heroines is Dr. Temperance Brennan of the TV series Bones. She’s off-the-chart smart, can totally kick ass and has more than enough social awkwardness to make her human and interesting.

  5. Hi Melinda – I love Bones! It’s one of my favorites and there are times that I wonder how she can deadpan her lines so well when I’m cracking up. She’s a great mix of character traits that works well.

    By the way, thanks for having me here today 🙂 and best wishes for a happy holiday season and an awesome New Year!!

    Dale

  6. Dale–what a great post. I think so many writers tend to lump “kick ass heroines” into one big group. I hadn’t thought to break them down. I loved Ripley in Aliens. She and Sarah Connor share that protective maternal instinct where they’ll face any battle to protect an innocent life. They push themselves so much harder than they thought possible.

  7. Hi Amy! So glad you could stop by – I know how busy you are. I really enjoyed writing on these kick ass women partly because it forced me to seriously think on what I wanted to say. We know so much but it’s not until we try to explain it to someone else do we really formulate our thoughts into a concrete understanding.

    That protective motherly instinct is often highlighted in movies and books because women are purely magical when that instinct kicks in and there’s really no limit to the what they are capable of!

    As long as it stays true to the character – the sky is the limit for the actions that follow!

    Dale

    Isn’t it amazing how we

  8. Dale,

    Thanks so much for blogging with us today. Good luck with the contest. I’m crossing my fingers for you (not that you need it!).

    Happy New Year!

  9. Thanks Melinda! I appreciate the best wishes! Happy New Year to you and yours!

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