Best-Ever Heroine Introductions

Today, I'm working on a new protagonist.

Forget Pygmalion. Creating the central persona of your novel is more like being a five-year-old with a tub of Play-Doh. Grand ambitions abound, but your elephant often ends up looking more like a lumpy purple rock.

Secondary characters are soooo much easier to create. Distinct and quirky personalities work wonderfully when we're not primarily seeing through their eyes. What serves as delightfully charming in small doses becomes irritating as hell when you put it front and center of your narrative.

This is probably the primary reason so many books suffer from relatively dull protagonists. And sometimes, that works just fine. The straightlaced foil surrounded by a circus of bizarre personalities can make for great reading.

However, when it comes to completing a writing project, I have the attention span of a gnat. If I'm not passionate about my protagonist, I'm pretty well guaranteed to reach Chapter 3 (roughly speaking) before I declare the whole book a useless boring mess and skip off to something shiny on the other side of my brain.

For a protagonist to hold my attention enough to drag me, kicking and screaming, through an entire manuscript, she's got to be something special. And I have to be able to see that from the opening scene. I need to be laughing at her, cheering for her, and possibly wincing or smacking my forehead, all within the first few paragraphs.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Today, to help me solve this particular puzzle, I'm pulling one of my favorite author tools out of my toolbox: stealing research. I'm studying up on the best-ever introductions to a heroine, whether in film, television or fiction. Since female protagonists are sadly thin on the ground, I'm including strong female leads even if they're not technically our full-time hero.

Top of the list? Our first glimpse of Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark. If watching a girl out-drink a massive Mongolian doesn't make you want to know and love her forever (or at least the next 90 or so minutes), I don't know what would.

What's your favorite introduction to a protagonist? Extra points if she's a lady.

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Jacquelyn studied anthropology in Belfast, Northern Ireland and married a man from Dublin, New Hampshire. She wrote a thesis on paranormal investigators and spent four years living in a museum. When not writing, you may find her turning flowers into wine, herding an unruly toddler, or hiding under a blanket devouring genre fiction.


  1. Andy
    April 15, 2015

    Grace Kelly in Rear Window comes to mind. Not the main protagonist, but she does all the dangerous leg work. Beautiful entrance too. Would love to wake up like that from all my naps.

  2. L. Keating
    April 15, 2015

    Marion’s intro is hand’s down the best! I think I always loved her because she starts off with a total, “I got this” attitude. For intros, it is actually surprisingly hard to think of a lady more on top: My favourite heroine, Ripley (who, while quietly hardcore throughout “Alien” even when not in action), is asleep in her intro, and doesn’t actually say much until later; The Bride of “Kill Bill” is bashed to a pulp; Sarah Conner is just going about her mundane day. While all of these ladies reveal themselves to be tougher than boiled leather, it’s like the audience has to be surprised by that.
    Clarice Starling might have the best intro after Marion, just killing it in the FBI track on a foggy morning; you just know that this lady has got it together.


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