Shannon Stacey

When your own heroine's unlikeable

I’ve been thinking about 72 HOURS a lot in the last day or so. Not only because it’s currently a Kindle freebie, but because of Dear Author’s blog post, The Case of the Unlikeable Heroine.

I had some issues with Grace, the heroine of 72 Hours—issues that brought the writing of the book to a grinding halt. After reaching a point in the story where she made a decision I couldn’t live with it, I not only didn’t like her, but I thought she was a Bad Mom.

In broad strokes: Grace and Alex’s son has been kidnapped. Because I write HEA-guaranteed stories, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say they get him back. They bring him to a secure location and then…

“You don’t have to come looking for me. I’m leaving with you now.”

No. Over his dead body. “You are staying here with our son and then, when you get the all clear, you’re taking him home.”

“I didn’t ask your permission, Alex.”

He heard that tone in her voice that meant he may as well beat his head against a brick wall as continue this conversation, but he had a very hard head. “After all he’s been through, you’re just going to leave him here alone?”

Screeching halt.

My reaction was much as the same as Alex’s. After all the work I went through to choreograph that rescue, she’s going to dump the kid and run off? Dude, srsly? I don’t even remember how long the manuscript sat while I tried to reconcile what I thought she should do with what the story demanded she do.

But eventually I realized that I was forcing myself onto Grace. I’m a mom. That’s my skillset, and I would hunker down in that secure location and hold my child and pray the Boogeyman didn’t jump out of the closet at us. Grace was a warrior. To her, the best way to keep her child safe was to kick down that closet door and kick the Boogeyman’s ass. That’s who she was.

Her cheeks reddened and he braced himself for her swing, but she only crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Ricardo Escobar almost took Danny from me while he was still in my body. Now, eight years later, he did take him from me. I am going to hunt that son of a bitch down and I’m going to kill him. And then I’ll take my son home.”

There was no way in hell he was going to let the mother of his child risk her life taking Escobar down. And the thought of losing another woman he cared about to the bastard behind it all made fear burn like acid in the back of his throat.

“So what was all that about before, Grace? All that stuff about being a good mother and doing what was best for Danny. Now that you’ve gotten out of the kitchen and had some fun, you don’t care about that anymore?”

“Fun?” She put both hands on his chest and shoved him hard. “Screw you, Rossi. I tried. I tried to play nice with the PTO and I tried to bake cookies and I tried to like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spy Kids and I couldn’t do it. But this…this I can do for him, Alex. When I take Danny home and tuck him in to his own bed, I’ll be able to look him in the eye and promise him that bad guy will never, ever hurt him again.”

He was losing. Again. He’d rarely, if ever, totally lost his cool, but now he turned and beat the living hell out of the vending machine. Plastic cracked and splintered, and packaged snacks flew around inside of it, and it didn’t even help.

“What if you die?” he yelled, shoving his hands deep in his pockets because he wanted nothing more than to shake her until her eyes rolled back in her head. “What if you don’t come back, Grace? It doesn’t hurt any less when your mother dies taking a bullet for you. She’s still dead.”

I woudn’t go so far as to call Grace unlikeable, but I knew there was a chance some readers wouldn’t like her decision any more than I did. How could she leave her son after all they’d been through? Her idea of the right thing to do and my idea of the right thing to do were worlds apart. But ultimately one of the foundations of crafting a story is being true to your characters and that’s the decision she made. Whether I liked it or not.

7 comments to “When your own heroine's unlikeable”

  1. Moriah Jovan
      · October 14th, 2009 at 9:51 am · Link

    All that stuff about being a good mother and doing what was best for Danny.

    From what you’ve shared here, I totally get her. By looking ahead to the future, taking care of the root problem once and for all, she’s being the BEST mother. It’s here the hero would make me roll my eyes and wonder WTH is wrong with him that he can’t see this.

  2. Shannon
      · October 14th, 2009 at 10:16 am · Link

    Well, from Rossi’s POV, he and other members of the DG are going to take care of the problem, so there’s no reason Grace can’t stay and take care of their son. It’s not as if the bad guy’s going to go scott free if she doesn’t go after him herself.

    And, in rescuing Danny, they had to leave Grace behind and, in that window between leaving her and finding out she was still alive, he had to ponder how to tell this boy who’s a stranger to him (because I do love me some secret babies) that his mother’s dead. Rossi’s mother died saving his life when he was a boy, so keeping the mother of his child out of harm’s way is important to him and comes up several times in the book.

    It’s funny you went that way, because I still have issues with her leaving him, even though I get why she did it. It’d be really funny if all this time I was stressing about readers not liking Grace, they felt like you did about Rossi and was the only one who questioned Grace’s mothering.

  3. Charlene
      · October 14th, 2009 at 12:07 pm · Link

    Yeah, see, this is the difference between writing fiction and autobiography. Characters make choices we wouldn’t, want things we don’t or even find appalling, and if you don’t get out of the way, you strangle the character and the story dead.

    72 Hours came out alive and kicking, so good for you. You don’t always have to like a character to care about them and root for them.

  4. Melissa
      · October 14th, 2009 at 12:35 pm · Link

    I didn’t have a problem w/ Grace, Shan. I thought it was what SHE would do. The only way she could know FOR SURE, in her mind, that the threat to her son was gone, was to do it herself. And she knew that her son would be safe w/ her parents.
    I get that she might have died, or they both might have died~~but to me, as a reader, her character demanded that SHE be the one doing the take down. I thought you showed her struggle with who she WAS, and who she WANTED to be quite clearly.

  5. Lillie A.
      · October 14th, 2009 at 1:53 pm · Link

    I’m reading 72 Hours now and I’m slightly past that scene. After pouting most of the day because I don’t have a Kindle and couldn’t get the book for free, I realized that I had Adrenaline in my TBR pile. Heh.

    I had the same reaction when Grace first said she was going but as soon as she said the next paragraph, I got it. This is who she is and what she knows. If she was your typical SAHM, it would have been ridiculous but this is something she could do to guarantee the safety of her kid. I get it. It wouldn’t have been my choice but I’m not a ass-kicking super heroine, either. *g*

  6. Shannon
      · October 15th, 2009 at 9:10 am · Link

    I thought you showed her struggle with who she WAS, and who she WANTED to be quite clearly.

    :kiss: I don’t really think about themes and such things while I’m writing, but Grace’s battle with who she was versus who she thought she should be was a key point for me in this story.

    If she was your typical SAHM, it would have been ridiculous but this is something she could do to guarantee the safety of her kid. I get it. It wouldn’t have been my choice but I’m not a ass-kicking super heroine, either.

    Yeah, I’m a typical SAHM, which is probably why I got hung up on it. Plus, we stick to the old-fashioned gender roles ’round here, so going after the bad guys would be man’s business. She’s probably the heroine most polar opposite to me, so being in her head was a challenge.

    I’d like to be her, though. :thumb:

  7. Jill Sorenson
      · October 16th, 2009 at 3:38 pm · Link

    It’s important that a heroine be likeable, not be like ME. Love the excerpt.

  • Get my latest news straight to your inbox!

    I'll only be sending newsletters when I have news to share, and I'll never share your information. You'll receive an email asking you confirm your subscription (so please check your spam box if you don't receive that). You can unsubscribe at anytime.


  • Affiliation

    Shannon Stacey is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of

    If you purchase a book listed on the site from, she’ll earn a small commission. Thank you!