Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Me and My Heroines

Often readers confuse an author with the characters they create. I imagine the truth is that each character we write has a hint of us inside of them. But it is also true that professional novelists go to great lengths to create unique and separate characters with distinctive personalities. So today I’m going to share with you how I am both similar to and different from some of my female heroines.

Typical Dina
Let’s start with the general idea of these tough Valiant Hearts heroines I've been working on the last few years. I’ve always been strong, healthy, and athletic, but not quite a tough sporty girl. During my school years I did play some sports, mostly because I went to small Christian schools and everyone needed to be involved. I was pretty good at basketball, but always preferred dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading. As an adult, I like quiet physical activities like walking, biking, hiking, and canoeing. I still dance from time to time as part of my church’s worship dance team. But…I believe in female empowerment and that women should follow whatever path God lays on their hearts. I don’t like to see arbitrary limits put on what girls can and can’t do, and that was very important to me as I wrote this Valiant Hearts Series. My Meyer’s Briggs personality type is INFJ, which in addition to being creative, is also very individualistic and idealistic, so I guess that explains my strong feelings about this issue. And I'm a bit of a romantic.

My Robin Hood-esque Merry Ellison from Dauntless and I actually have very little in common. On the Meyers Briggs scale, Merry was my opposite on three out of four indicators. She is more extroverted, sensory, and thinking. This made Merry the most challenging character I’ve ever written, yet I loved and admired her. Her ESTJ personality was the same as my middle child, my outdoor enthusiast and adrenaline junky. It’s a great leadership personality. I often thought of tough sporty girls I’ve been friends with over the years while writing Merry. Merry and I have a few things in common like a love of children and a love of acrobatics, but even her motivations and inner thoughts were often different than mine. I do have a tomboy side, but it does not go as far as weaponry and hunting. In addition to all of that, tiny, dark haired, exotic Merry is pretty much my physical opposite in every way too. 

Chivalrous with my female knight is releasing soon, and I certainly have more in common with Gwendolyn Barnes than with Merry. I was picturing Gwendolyn as a INFP/ISFP hybrid.  Gwendolyn hates mingling at a big party, much like me, and she loves music, dance, and sunshine, again like me. Her biggest flaw is that she tends to fade into a fantasy world rather than deal with reality, which is something I have been guilty of from time to time, but not to the same degree as Gwendolyn. She has more of a temper than I do, although I share her abhorrence of injustice and can get pretty riled up when faced with it. And again, she is tougher than me, although I think if I had been raised with her hang ups, I might have turned out even more like her. Finally, Gwendolyn’s tall, blonde, and curvy physical description is pretty close to mine at that age. At 5’10” I’m used to looking men in the eye and feeling like I can do anything they can.

How I picture Rosalind
Next on the horizon is Courageous with my crusader heroine. It won’t release until July 2016, but you will be introduced to its main character in Chivalrous. Rosalind of Ipsworth is Gwendolyn’s lady’s maid, best friend, and partner in crime. Of the three Valiant Hearts heroines so far, I definitely have the most in common with Rosalind. With her ENFJ personality, she is more of a typical emotional, romantic girl, although she is tough enough to rise to whatever occasion is thrown at her. She’s more outgoing than me, and she makes some unfortunate choices that my upbringing protected me from. But her thoughts, speech, and motivations are pretty similar to what I imagine mine being in those circumstances. And Rosalind is a passionate woman, which is also a trait I share. 

Passion is a characteristic that is often avoided in Christian heroines, and yet a characteristic I think God highly values when channeled in the right direction. In fact, I’ve used the ENFJ personality for two other heroines in the past. Both Dandelion in Dance of the Dandelion and Constance in Love in Three-Quarter Time are feisty, passionate heroines as well. Each makes mistakes, like Rosalind, but each learns to channel that passion toward an intimate relationship with God. My daughter has an ENFJ personality, and I have loved watching her grow in her passion toward God.

Maybe you’re wondering if I’ve ever written myself into a book. I would say the closest I’ve come is with Allie, my Christian ballerina in Dance from Deep Within. She shares my INFJ personality, my love of dance and reading, my blonde coloring, and many of my experiences. Her thoughts, tastes, opinions, fashion sensibilities, and beliefs certainly mirror mine, especially when I was her age. But of course her life is different than mine in some ways too, and her experiences are more extreme, including a trauma I didn’t share. Still, I would say if you want to know what I’m all about, Allie would provide the best clues.

So that’s me and my heroines. I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick foray into our personalities.

Which of my heroines do you think you would relate with the most? What is your personality like?


  1. ENTJ? Wow, I was off on typing Merry. I had her pegged as an ESTP. However, ENTJ makes more sense, now that I picture it in the context of the story. I'm an INTJ (you don't see us in fiction either, unless we're the villains--and you rarely see us as females). I would probably get along best with Gwendolyn or Allie, but that's going off of where my Real Life friendship tendencies lie. I definitely wouldn't want to be around Merry for too long. It sounds exhausting.

    1. I'm glad you mentioned it. I had one letter wrong there and I fixed it now! She was an S. Which means you were only off on the P. I think she's too structured for a P. My son is a ESTJ, but with some P mixed in, and I largely modeled Merry after him. LOL.

      Sadly, I must agree that an INTJs makes a good villain. Also an ENTJs. But, Layla, my sweet Muslim character in Dance from Deep Within is actually an INTJ. She is predictably going to college for engineering.

      A lot of my close friends over the years have been ENFPs for some reason. But they drive me nuts when they're late. I also really like other INFJs and ENFJs. But of course some of my friends are completely unexpected.

  2. Now this is the thing. I don't have any fundamental problem with the idea of strong and capable women- but I do not like to define myself as a feminist, because, perhaps controversially, I believe that some feminist ideas are damaging and even demeaning to women, and that feminism can place the burden of unrealistic expectations upon the female sex.

    It has to be said that I do have an issue with some of the depictions of strong women in fiction, even Christian Fiction. They way they shun traditional' 'feminine' occupations and activities, because they think they are boring, stupid or pointless- but also the way in which such characters seem to think those who expect them to do such things instead of what they want are somehow 'repressing' them.
    I'm sorry, but needlework, balls, and embriodery are not intrinsically bad just because someone does not like to do them.

    Also, I do not think that there is anything inherently sexist or repressive in being Ladylike- and I think that is the crux of the problem. I think society has for too long fed women the lie that they have to be be like men, that they have to do everything men do (and preferably do it better), and that this is the only way to prove their worth as women.
    That being overtly feminine, or assuming traditional feminine roles is somehow unempowering and bad.

    I think a woman can express her skill, intelligence and strength of character in such roles, occupations and activities. She doesn't act like a man to prove herself a real woman, if that makes sense- and dare I say- she does not have to learn to fight, or to joust.
    She can be strong as a mother, as a nurturer, as a teacher of children, as a manager of a household- even as a nun- there were some incredible women in Holy Orders in the Middle Ages.
    I have a novel on my shef about one- St Hild of Whitby, who helped spread Christianity in her kindgom in the seventh century, and even trained priests and missionaries.

    Anyway, I don't intent to attack anyone of hurt any feelings here, that's my two cents. Take it or leave it.

    1. My feeling aren't hurt. Gwendolyn is my only heroine who really wants to fill a man's role, but as you read the book, you leaen there is a reason. Also, part of her journey is learning that she can be both strong and feminine. And if you recall from Dauntless, Merry actually enjoyed some feminine pursuits and wanted to be a wife and mother. Rosalind is much more of a typical girl, just in a situation where she needs to fight. Go to the "series" link in this website to read more of my thoughts on this.

    2. My feeling aren't hurt. Gwendolyn is my only heroine who really wants to fill a man's role, but as you read the book, you leaen there is a reason. Also, part of her journey is learning that she can be both strong and feminine. And if you recall from Dauntless, Merry actually enjoyed some feminine pursuits and wanted to be a wife and mother. Rosalind is much more of a typical girl, just in a situation where she needs to fight. Go to the "series" link in this website to read more of my thoughts on this.

    3. True. Merry was more in that situation because she was forced into it- which was the case with a lot of Medieval women who assumed male role. They had no other choice.

      I am actually reading 'Chivalrous' at the moment (do seem to get the title confused).
      One thing that concerns me is I do not think the representation of Medieval views on women's roles and social expectations is entirely always fair or accurate.

      Women even then weren't expected to be stupid, coddled, and not capable of doing anything for themselves - noblewomen were expected to be able to run the household and help manage thier husband's estates.
      I really think the Victorians and Georgians have a lot to answer for in that regard, as they were often the ones who promoted the idea that Medieval people saw women in that way.

      I was even reading recently that not all Medieval clerical writers were the rabid mysogynists like we are often told. Some had quite a high regard for women, and didn't believe they were evil incarnate.

    4. Off the subject I am a little confused about Allen. I seem to recall (sorry if this is a spoiler alert) that it was revealed his father or grandfather might have been a knight towards the end of 'Dauntless'? Yet in Chivalrous its said that he was a peasant through and through- or is my mind playing tricks on me- it has been known to happen....

    5. Actually, no, Allen was completely a peasant, although you will read an interesting tidbit coming up. You must be confusing it with another book. And as you will see in Chivalrous, Gwendolyn's dad is very extreme and even abusive. He doesn't necessarily represent the culture as a whole. But even today there are sadly some men like that.