Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why Are Most Heroines In Their Twenties?

A reader recently asked me why every heroine of late is in their twenties. A valid question when I looked at the top books in romance right now. Can women in their forties not fall in love? Or is that age too wise for the conventional mistakes that allow a love plot to twist and turn through dramatic hills and valleys?

The question was posed to me in an almost demanding way – “Why have you, oh dark Sultan of Romance, insisted on painting your delicious heroine in the light of youth?” So I sat back and thought.

My upcoming novel, On Me, In Me, Dead Beneath Me, is a story of a young woman’s struggle to control her psychotic tendencies, and having to journey out of her comfort zone in an attempt to rescue a young girl.  The heroine is twenty-one, the same age as the heroine in my debut novel, Blindfolded Innocence.  Coincidence? Why had I chosen, without any second thought, such young leads?

While story-line circumstances mildly dictated the heroine’s age, the real reason behind my age choice centered on myself.  While I passed twenty-one almost a decade ago, I can put myself in the mind of a young woman with ease.  My husband would call it immaturity, but I’d like to think of my heroines as worldly, wise-beyond-their-years, confident women.  I can empathize with a twenty-something; portray them in an accurate and appealing fashion.  It would be difficult for me to write from the perspective of a thirty, forty, or fifty year old woman – to understand their motivations, thought processes, and justifications.  I wouldn’t do them justice and would probably irritate readers in my awkward attempt.  The golden rule – to write what you know – holds true in my case, and as I gain life experiences and grow older, I will no doubt write older female leads.

I don’t know how much my answer satisfied that one, indignant reader, but I am glad she posed the question.   It caused me to look at my characters a little closer, and examine my motivations, a side effect that will no doubt, improve the final result.  To all readers out there – challenge us, question us, critique and review your heart out.  We welcome and appreciate the insight and the improvements they bring!

Alessandra Torre is a stay-at-home wife and mom in the southeast United States. Blindfolded Innocence, her first novel, was a huge success and captured the attention of readers everywhere. She is currently working on the sequel, which will be available soon. When not writing, Alessandra enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. You can learn more about Alessandra and her upcoming books, at


  1. That is a good question. I don't fault any author for choosing the age they do for their heroines, or the heroes. When writing my characters tend to be closer to the age that I am, since I've lived it, I guess I know what it's like to be that age. My current heroine is in her thirties as is the hero. But I doubt I'll be writing fifty-year-old characters any time soon. :)

    author.winteraustin at gmail dot com

  2. An interesting subject. But yipe, with all due respect, I'm not hugely impressed by your answer.

    I mean, I'd accept a response such as "for the purposes of the book, the character needs to be fresh out of school, maybe a touch naive and relatively inexperienced with the world." But an author claiming to be incapable of empathizing with someone who doesn't fit her own profile? Despite the fact that you say you're in your thirties yourself?

    One must gather your books are filled solely with twentysomething women. No older characters anywhere. And certainly no men, period -- I mean, you're *not* a man of any age, so how can you possibly empathize with, understand and thus write for one?

    Such words are bizarre indeed coming from an experienced professional author. Because if you really are being honest and have that narrow a perspective as a writer, then you're pretty much saying that you write male characters as if they're twentysomething girls. Which is... a trifle disturbing!

    The idea that one can only write for someone you've actually been is one of the oddest I've ever heard. That's not what "write what you know" means -- it really means you should *know* what you write: go out into the world, do research, read journals, talk to people of various backgrounds. One is a writer because one has an imagination, and creates well-drawn characters from having some understanding of psychology, of how others live and think and feel.

    I don't know what the truth is, in your case; perhaps you're writing to fit your publisher's preference for only young heroines, or maybe you want to attract a YA audience? Are you just lazy and don't feel like changing your preferred heroine template? I can't believe that; I doubt you'd be successful if that were true.

    Whatever it is, I think you should dig deeper and acknowledge the reality behind your choices. If all authors felt as you do, we'd be reading about nothing but heroines who are writers. And wouldn't that be a dull, crazy, solipsistic world?


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