Saturday, April 9, 2011

 Some of us like snarky characters who take no nonsense from others and raise a little hell on the side. Romance novel junkies like feisty female characters who take charge of their own business. Of course, in this scenario, the obligatory Mr. But-in-sky rides in, determined to make things right in her world. However, with strong-willed women and intense men, there’s likely to be differences of opinions and a resultant parting of ways as to how things should be done.

But back to our hellcat. According to dictionary.com, hellcat is a noun that means:

1.  a bad-tempered, spiteful, woman; shrew.
2.  a woman with magic powers derived from evil sources; witch.
3.  a spiteful fierce-tempered woman

Over time, the meaning has changed a little bit, and a hellcat, can be described as a volatile woman.  It’s always been my ambition to have a woman like that in one of my novels and I’ve succeeded. (Bully for me!) This woman, Celeste Davies, appears in two stories. In the first, she was a major-pain-in-the-ass for her sister, to whom the story belonged.

Celeste was such a strong character, I had to give her a novel of her own and let me tell you, it’s the most roller-coaster-ridish romance I’ve written to date.  At first, my reader’s didn’t like her as she personified all the various definitions of snarky. She was unpleasant, irritable, and full of wise-cracks. She was also mean to the hero, so of course, I had to tone her down.

In my second revision, I made her less snarky, but she was still a hellcat, which worked to her advantage.  Try kidnapping a victim who won’t cooperate, is full of lip and goes ballistic when hit. I did the following to make her more likeable:-

  • I gave her some redeeming qualities. She cared a lot for the hero, even to the point of doing something really stupid to try and protect him. She fell in love with his nephews - a pair of four-year-old twins – which kinda changed her outlook on her situation. Mostly internal stuff here, but it made her more human.

  • I made sure her facetiousness didn’t tip over into unkindness. Her boyfriend hurt her and did deserve some bad treatment; however, nobody likes sustained meanness. Apart from some verbal digs on the subject of irresponsible men, plus some attitude, Mark got off relatively easy.

  • Nothing helps a reader understand a character better than showing why the person is the way they are. Celeste’s disastrous forays into love, not to mention Mark’s earlier treatment, forced her to protect herself by using nasty comments and trying to close off her emotions. She also felt unable to sustain a long-term relationship based on her past. I tried harder to make the reader understand and empathise with her situation.

  • Over the course of the story, Celeste had to examine the way she did things and how her impulsive behavior endangered Mark. Her growth and change was slow, but it did reveal itself by the end of the story.  She emerged a more responsible and open woman who stopped running away from her problems
Useful links:

Why Your Main Characters Should be Likeable
Create A Likeable Protagonist
Do Characters Need to be Likeable? 

How do you make your strong characters more likeable?

I'll be out and about with the little one today, so will catch up with your blogs later in the evening into tomorrow.  Have a great day!

Dried  Corn Kernels - Hominy
Today’s Jamaican meal is Hominy Porridge. Hominy is dried corn kernel without the hull. We soak the kernels in water and then boil them until they are tender. Spices used in this porridge include cinnamon, mixed spice, coconut milk, salt and vanilla.  We sweeten it with sugar and/or condensed milk. Hominy porridge is a delicious breakfast food!

Hominy Corn Porridge


  1. I've never had hominy porridge, but my grandmother used to make hominy and we'd eat it up like crazy!

    I love the idea of a hellcat in a story and I'm glad to see the meanings have changed.

    I agree that characters need to be likable, or at least relatable.

    Great post!

  2. Those are really great characters if done well. I loved to hate Joan COllins when she played the perfect Hellcat in Dynasty :)

  3. I like strong female characters too - the butt-kicking type - so it's a balancing act to give them endearing qualities that don't turn them to mush. :) Great post!

  4. It was a challenge! But the female lead in the fifth book of my series was a hellcat and she was tough to make likeable. I tried to show the reasons for her behavior - her inner insecurities.

  5. WC, thanks. Kinda hard to make these hellcats relatable, but it's our job to do the best we can.

    Siv, yeah, I can remember Dynasty even though it was way back when.

    Laura, me too! Balancing act is about accurate. :)

    Diane, good move. If we can make people understand what's going on then we've succeeded in doing the job right.

  6. Glad to learn hellcat character in your h post.

    your corn porridge is delicious looking.

  7. This is a great post! the porridge sounds delicious. I may have to try and make some yum yum

  8. I love Celeste! Sometimes I wanted to smack her upside the head, especially when she wouldn't listen to perfectly good advice from handsome gentlemen. But you're right, you did give her redeeming qualities.

  9. Jingle, these hellcats make interesting writing.

    Josh, you should try it. You can Google the recipe.

    Clarissa, Celeste does make you want to smack her! :D

  10. I love that your characters are feisty. Who wants to read about a wimpy woman?

    My “G” post: Genetic Link
    My “H” post: Habituation: Can You Think Yourself Skinny?

  11. I have not heard the word Hellcat in ages. Great H word!
    I love the description of your characters.

  12. Hominy sounds absolutely delicious! I'm having cravings and I've never even tasted it!

  13. Sounds like you've created a truly three-dimensional character and, btw, I love the name Celeste!

    Bring on the Hellcats! So much more interesting. :-)

  14. You always have such great information. I love this post on strong women figures that you like but don't want to. However, the recipes make me so hungry to try the food that I wish I could push the button on my CD drive and it would deliver the food right to me to try. Perhaps you could arrange that with your computer skills. Just a taste would be fine!

  15. that porridge looks gooooD! Thanks for widening my knowledge on hellcats. I always wondered where that new cheerleading series "hellcats" got its name.

  16. Word Nerd, gimmie a spunky character every time, except of course when the story calls for a different kind of character.

    Doreen, thanks!

    Amie, it is one of my favourites.

    Liz, Celeste is one of my most vibrant characters.

    Jeanne, thanks for your kind words. Ya know, a Google search can yield you some simple recipes you can try. Most of this stuff is simple to make.

    Nutschell, don't mention! I'm always happy to share information.

  17. Hominy porridge? Can I come eat with you?! It sounds like a sweet grits. We love our grits here in the Deep South of USA. We have a few hellcats too. And you are so right -- understanding how they came to be that way can go miles toward likeability in a novel. Must. Have. Backstory! Nice to meet you!

  18. Nice to meet you too, Irene. Unravelling characters is part of the fun of reading for me.

    I'm now wanting some hominy porridge. :D

  19. I loved the name Celeste. And I like strong, fiesty heroines!

  20. What an excellent topic for "H" day! I like a fiery female lead. I read Before I Fall, which had an unlikeable main character. By the end of the book, I loved her, and cared about what happened to her.

  21. I think hellcats can be fun to read about, as long as their at least a little sympathetic. Celeste sounds like an interesting character.

  22. Nas, seems a lot of us female writers like feisty females.

    Julie,I must look out for that book.

    Cynthia,yes,I think Celeste has a little bit of all the feisty women I know wrapped up in her character. :)

  23. I love the second definition for "hellcat." I'm so going to have to write a story about one of those. Great post all around. For my stronger female characters, I try to balance the snarkiness so they're not in-your-face in an over the top way, but they still maintain their personality.

  24. The Hominy looks good! Sounds like you've created a perfect blend of hellcat and likeability. It was helpful in seeing how you turned your character around for your readers!

  25. I think a lot of us like this kind of character because we would secretly like to be a little more like this. Even though its not socially acceptable, I think we still root for the girl who goes and gets what she wants without apology or fear about social rejection.


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