Dec 6 2012 1:30pm

Paranormal Heroines Wanted: What Comes After the Kick-Ass Heroine?

If Sookie can become kick-ass, anyone can!There is an army of uber-powerful women who can kick any ass, any time. The paranormal heroine faces and conquers greater and stronger challenges with every book. Don’t get me wrong—I love those strong heroines that get stronger with each book in the series. Rachel Morgan has gone from a fairly skilled fighter to someone ready to take over the demon world. Our gal Sookie has shown that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is a certainty in the world of romance heroines. It’s just that—well, we’ve done kick-ass for years now. What comes next?

I sure don't want to go back to the victim whimpering passive females from the past; maybe some twists on the theme would be enough to keep the paranormal heroine fresh.

Ilona Andrews gave us Dali in her Kate Daniels series. Dali is a rare white tiger shifter who’s a vegetarian, nearly blind and a terrible fighter just to make a change in the usual line up. She’s fun and a great start.

Some minor changes to the theme would be enough to make our heroine stand apart from the crowd. There are so many whippet-lean women with glossy braids fighting supernatural crime. The most obvious shift would be a paranormal heroine who’s fighting her weight or one with lank hair and with really bad balance. She gets dizzy when she tries to do yoga and couldn’t run a mile under 15 minutes.

I’ve noticed most of these heroines tend to be on her own with only a mother or brother around, so how about one with a boat-load of nosy neighbors and an extended nosier family? They all give her grief when she comes back from a monster encounter, covered with green blood. Many of them try to hook her up with the nice knight next door. 

Magic Dreams, an e-novella by Ilona AndrewsHow about a heroine with arthritis? Some days she can kick ass, others she can’t even hold her special weapons properly.

A heroine who has an unfortunate addiction to really bad puns and stops to think of them at the wrong time.

A heroine who drives around a lot even though she has no sense of direction and refuses to stop for help.

A heroine who dislikes the sight of blood so much she’ll avoid fights. Not really fear, mind you. Just intense dislike and maybe nausea and oh, yeah, she’s a vampire.

A heroine who actually does care about the state of her house, but just doesn’t have time. She’s  embarrassed every time a bad guy stops by because she didn’t clean up and the sink is full of dirty dishes. (I guess that’s sort of Sookie.)

Obviously it’s easy to give the heroine a group of flaws to make her less perfect. I wonder if there would be another way to invent a whole new brand of paranormal heroine without loading the poor thing up with bad balance, zits and a case of cowardice.

How to start that next great new trend the post-kick-ass heroine? If I knew that, I’d be writing her. Where would you like to see post-kick-ass heroines go?


Kate Rothwell writes romance using her own name and the pseudonym Summer Devon. She lives in Connecticut with four men (three of whom are her sons). You can out more about her at and

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1. Kristan
I like an insecure woman with superpowers. Yes, she can kick villains' butts, but why does her mother like her sister best? And when will she get that promotion to the League of Justice and lose those last ten pounds? ; ) Great post, Kate! I really enjoyed it.
2. Gayle63
I'd like to see a kick-ass heroine who is smart enough to take help from the hero (and others) rather than insisting she go it alone. And please, I'm so tired of corsets and long, black leather tenchcoats! Maybe a Clark Kent-type heroine who is humble by day but kick-ass by night? Or a kick-ass heroine who isn't also grim and hypersexual... Yes, there is still room to grow with this trope.
Laura Hamby
3. LauraHamby
I have a paranormal I started to write, it would be a series, and I've been thinking of reworking it (first one is done)...Now I have something to consider. Thanks, Kate.
4. KateRothwell
Thanks, Kristan. Your post made me laugh-- now I can see a woman in leather, spandex and armor slapping her butt and complaining to her mother.
5. KateRothwell
Gayle, I can totally see Clarissa Kent, mild administrative assistant as superheroine disguise. She gets in trouble because she runs out of meetings. Did Clark Kent ever get in trouble for missing deadlines or dodging interviews?

Laura, have fun with your new series. I'll read it!
6. Marian Lanouette
I like a woman who is strong enough to know when she needs help and when she doesn't. It makes them stronger when they can admit it.
7. Mary Castillo
I think even the most bad ass super powerful heroines have their weakness.Even Wonder Woman has her problems in the form of her mother. Yes, the most powerful woman inthe world has mommy issues just like the rest of us! But that weakness drives her while at the same time it haunts her. It's that weakness that makes her relatable.

I had to keep that in mind when I wrote my heroine, Dori. She's a cop. She can take a grown man to the ground. She doesn't flinch when people get in her face. But the inside is a totally different story. Dori has depression and post traumatic stress. She can't get along with her mother. Men and women are threatened by her stoic facade.

Oh what fun it was to write her!
8. Susan A.
Ooooh - how about the heroine who is afraid of spiders? That could lead to some interesting situations.
9. Wendy Roberts
Great post! Lots to think about :)
10. Meg Allison
I've actually written a paranormal heroine who is far from the kick-ass type. She's actually very insecure; considers herself overweight and not hugely attractive; and only fights when she's forced to do so.

Not sure she's the type you're looking for or that she'd catch on big with readers, but I enjoyed exploring her character. :)
Patricia Wilkerson
11. Proofreaderpat
I'd like to see a kick-ass heroine who can't bring herself to cuss and has to be inventive with her vocabulary.
12. Kris Starr
Every single one of those suggestions is awesome and I'd read all of those books! I've never tried to write a kick-ass, superpowered, crime-fighting heroine. No idea if I could even do it. :D
Ellen Hutchings
13. shadowmaster13
We don't have to go back the victim whimpering passive heroine, but how about one who doesn't know how to fight, she has other skills so she's actually a person but avoids the violent conflicts because she's smart enough to know that she'd be outclassed.

I hate the idea that either the heroine is a kick-ass heroine or she's the most annoying person to ever walk the planet because she's utterly useless.
14. Martine34
I am so dang tired of these characters. They are nothing but Mary Sues. They are there for one purpose only. For an immature, insecure reader to pretend that character is them. They are just a wish fulfillment stand in. They are always sexy. They are always completely absurdly strong considering that they are too young to have much experience, too little to have weight or reach advantage, and well, female. Yes, its true, here on Earth, women are less strong then a male the same age, and in roughly the same condition. If you don't believe me, go ask any guy to arm wrestle...if you can get them to take you seriously. Also, they are always snarky, jaded, unpleasant, often cold, and totally uncomfortable with emotion, and no matter how completely unpleasant they act, the guys still want to chase after her. Who wouldn't want a set up like that? Id love to have guys chase after me no matter how rude I act. The problem is that they arev one dimentional and dull, like any characters who are there for wish fulfilment only. In fact girls have been fed this oversweetened garbage for so long, that they resent any more well rounded female chaarcters. You know characters with flaws! Like not being the strongest. Not being the one to rescue people, but actualy having to be rescued! Or finding out that if they act tough, and want to be loners, the guy will be perfectly glad to let them be alone. Or finding out that they actually feel lonely, like all humans do, and they realize that in order to have people accept them, they need to watch what they say. No matter how satisfying that snarky one liner is, sometimes its best to be nice! There is alot to be said for realism in writing.
15. Martine34
Not getting along with your mother is NOT a weakness. Its just alittle window dressing on your same Mary Sue. I'm sorry. Look at it this way; Would you like to be like this character? If the answer is yes, it is a mary sue. The truth is, that these little "weaknesses" in an otherwise impossibly fortunate, and perfect woman are going to make her totally hateful. A heroine that is able to fight off a special forces soldier, despite being female, and still has men that are attracted to her logically would have to be the nicest, most down to earth, most humble person on earth. A total caretaker. Because already to be large and powerful enough for that kind of strength, she would be unattractive to most men. If however, she is able to beat up men, be cold, or unfriendly, and still have a guy she is attracted to after her, then she is a MARY SUE.
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