Friday, May 20, 2011

MGOC Contributor: Barbara J. Miller


EXCERPT from "Empowering Female Characters" by Barbara J. Miller in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction

When we think of powerful characters we tend to focus on strength, but there are many other kinds of power that outweigh the physical. If you learn to write tales of female empowerment you may capture not only the female audience but male readers, as well. The current genre market encourages writers to create heroines who use brains and physical skills along with other powers to take effective action and compel readers to cheer them on.

Like the progress of the women's rights movement, literature that grants women power has had its ups and downs. The Grimm brothers collected tales told to them by Katherina Viehmann, and others, so the original Grimm's Fairy Tales still have that cautionary, wise-woman point of view. As Jane Yolen points out in her introduction to Kathleen Ragan's Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters, the Victorian editors repressed folk tales with female heroes and reprinted the ones with male heroes. Early Walt Disney movies in the post WWII era of getting women out of the workplace reinforced this tradition of the heroine who needed to be rescued and supported.


EXCERPT from "Heroes in Romance" by Barbara J. Miller in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction

Many readers and writers have the wrong idea about alpha heroes. I know these characters are physically attractive because they are virile, handsome, powerful and charismatic. But that does not mean they are by default unfair, abusive, difficult or irreparably scarred. True heroes are heroes at their core, leaders who are sensitive to the needs of other, self-sacrificing men who show compassion and generosity even if they have risen out of a torturous past.


Barbara J. Miller teaches in the Writing Popular Fiction graduate program at Seton Hill University and is Reference Librarian at Mount Pleasant Public Library. She has published historical romances, cozy mysteries, and young adult books and is now writing Regencies and paranormals for Cerridwen Press. You may email or visit

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