Wednesday, 20 January 2016

What's Wrong With Green-Eyed, Redheaded Heroines?

Seriously, why all the hate? I was writing a story a bit ago with a redheaded heroine. Then I got into YA fiction and realised that people were sick to the back teeth of them. Why?

(Um...maybe because they're legion?)

That depends on what you read. Off the top of my head, I can only list a few. Twylla. Ginny. Rowan. One of them is brown-eyed and isn't the main heroine, one of them only becomes the main heroine in the second book. I can think of far more who are dark or blonde - Katniss, Grace, Annabeth, Sam, Jude, Puck...

Besides, there are good reasons for why writers choose a green-eyed redhead for their lead heroine:

1. It's one of the rarest hair-eye combinations

 Not the rarest - blue eyes are rarer than green, after all - but certainly rare enough that it'll make your major player stand out from the crowd. 

2. Varying your cast

So the lancer is brunette with blue eyes, the smart gal is blonde haired and brown-eyed, the love interest is dark haired and green-eyed - where does that leave your heroine? Members of your main cast should all have their own look. That's not to say a couple of them can't share features, but the main character shouldn't be one of them. In the average novel (as in the real world), there'll be a lot of blondes and brunettes. Redheads are rarer. 

Of course, the heroine doesn't have to be striking. Janey Brown, for example, was a delibrately plain and average heroine. There's no law that says she has to stand out (and your characterisation should make that happen anyway).

3. Nobody's complaining about redheaded villains, or pale, dark-haired girls

Nine times out of ten, a hair/eye colour combination in fiction is a cliche. Redheads are stereotyped as short-tempered, and so are cast as villains and bullies as often as they are heroes.

Of course, not all villains stay villains
Then there's dark-haired characters. They're often pale, aloof, or both. Blondes are popular and street smart, but book dumb. Bald guys are thugs. 

Or are they? It's becoming increasingly common to spin these tired old tropes on their heads a la Legally Blonde. The bald guy is a gentle giant. The redhead is the voice of reason. The popular girl is dark haired. And on, and on, and on. With that logic, why not write a redhead? They aren't at any more risk of cliche than a blonde or a brunette.

4. Isn't it kind of...shallow to judge a character on their appearance?

Red is a hair colour. Not a personality type. Not picking up a book because the heroine has red hair and green eyes is like crossing the road to avoid someone because they have brown hair. At the end of the day, people might moan about it, but it's probably not going to deter them.

Do you feel like this combo has been done to death? Do you avoid red hair and green eyes when creating heroines? How about other features?