Guest post – Laura McNeill – five heroines who forever changed fiction

With a hectic week behind me and another coming up, I’ve lent my blog to the amazingly talented, Laura McNeil. After reading her guest post, be sure to check out her newly released suspense novel, Center of Gravity. 

Five Heroines Who Forever Changed Fiction

Laura McNeill

When you think about your favorite novel heroines, what personality traits, words, and descriptions come to mind?

For me, it’s a mash-up of independence, sensitivity, and spunk. I also adore a main character who’s action-oriented, intelligent, relatable, and a bit flawed. In addition, If she can kick a little butt, more power to her!

I recently asked friends and family about the fictional women they believe changed the face of literature forever. Here’s the list they came up with, in no particular order:

Jo March, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

In Little Women, Jo March is one of four sisters living in 19th century New England. She is the tomboy of the family; strong-minded, independent, and hot tempered. Always the most creative of the sisters, Jo loves reading and writing, composing plays for her sisters to perform. While her sisters swoon over potential beaus, Jo rejects the idea of marriage, believing it would separate her from the family she adores.

Children’s book expert Anita Silvey explains that Little Women is a reflection of author Alcott’s life. “She very much wrote their story as she would have liked it to have been. She really softens the hard edges of her life. She makes Jo a much more lovable, accepted character than Louisa May Alcott herself ever was. Jo always makes you think anything is possible and anything is possible for a woman.”

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series, J.K.Rowling

J.K.Rowling has often described Granger of an exaggeration of her own youth, painting her as the brightest of all of the series’ main characters. When readers first meet Hermione, she is aptly labeled an annoying know-it-all, but over the course of the books, grows into a determined and loyal friend. While Hermione’s greatest fear is academic failure, she is also prone to emotional overload, which only serves to make her more realistic.

In a Crushable article, Wendy Boswell adds this observation: “Ron’s attraction to Hermione and Harry’s liking and respect of her are not predicated on her good looks. While she scrubs up prettily for the Yule Ball, she’s generally unconcerned about her big bushy locks and makes only a small concession to vanity by fixing her slightly protuberant front teeth (but, then, her parents are Muggle dentists). It’s her academic brilliance and flashes of steel backbone that win her friends.”
Hermione Granger Quotes

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

With steely resolve and ironclad determination, Katniss Everdeen stormed onto the literary scene and stole readers’ hearts. A proficient archer, she is shown in the opening scene of the first book in the series putting her life at risk by foraging for food for her family.

Though she is fiercely independent and tends to be a loner, Katniss’ love for her sister, Prim, motivates her to volunteer as a tribute for The Hunger Games. With the eyes of the nation on her at all times, Katniss breaks the rules anyway, refusing to conform to society mores.

In a Cheat Sheet article, Valerie Tejeda has this to say about Katniss: “It’s stubbornness that proves to be one of her biggest assets throughout the series. In an arena full of trained killers, Katniss’ intelligence and quick thinking helped her prevail over her adversaries. The master chess player, Katniss is always one step ahead and her wit constantly leaves her competition guessing. She’s also an expert strategist and pits her strengths against her opponents’ weaknesses.”


Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Though she might not seem like a “heroine” in the traditional sense of the word, Lisbeth Salander collected droves of admirers when The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was published in the U.S. At the time of the first movie’s release, Larsson’s trilogy had sold more than 27 million copies worldwide.

Lisbeth is a loner and outsider who makes a living as a computer hacker. Her dark demeanor, tattoos and piercings hide to passing observers that she is intelligent beyond measure. Readers are able to catch a glimpse of Lisbeth’s vulnerable, sensitive side, especially in her interactions with journalist Mikael Blomkvist during their search for a murderer in the Swedish countryside.

A.O. Scott, a New York Times reviewer, has this to say about Lisbeth’s portrayal in the movie adapted from the novel: “The story starts to fade as soon as the end credits run. But it is much harder to shake the lingering, troubling memory of an angry, elusive and curiously magnetic young woman who belongs so completely to this cynical, cybernetic and chaotic world without ever seeming to be at home in it.”

Scout Finch, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee

With the release of Harper Lee’s new novel, many are eager to read the continuance of To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that tackles issues of racial injustice in the Deep South.

As the child narrator of Mockingbird, often seeming wise beyond her years, Scout questions the events she witnesses, trying to make sense of the imbalance of right and wrong. As a young girl in small town 1930s Alabama, Scout is expected to stay reserved and mild-mannered, yet takes every opportunity to stray outside the lines of societal norms.

In a character profile posted on the Ol’ Curiosities Book Shoppe blog, I came across this quote: “Growing up in Maycomb with her father’s guidance, Scout was certain to recognize an imbalance in the world. It seemed that honor, truth, and bravery were reserved for a chosen few. This 6-year-old sees the world for what it is, and she recognizes the injustice that reigns in her society. “Live in their skin” her father tells her, and somehow, Scout Finch understands.”

Who are the novel heroines you believed changed the face of fiction forever? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Mobile, Alabama with her two sons.

You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity, can be found wherever fine books are sold.
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  1. meredithgschorr on July 26, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks so much for coming on my blog, Laura. Great post and I agree with these heroines. I have one to add: Bridget Jones. I think she became the face of the “real modern woman” – we were able to laugh at her mishaps while nodding our heads in understanding/empathy.

    And I loved Center of Gravity!!

  2. Laura McNeill (@LauraMcNeillBks) on July 26, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Ah! Bridget Jones …. She certainly changed the face of fiction for so many of us… couldn’t agree more! I had such fun writing up this post and am delighted to be here on your website today!

    Thank you for the kind words about “Center of Gravity.” So so so glad that you enjoyed it 🙂

    xx, Laura

  3. Tracie Banister on July 28, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Great article, Laura! Of course you know which heroine I’m going to cite as being one who changed the fact of fiction as I blather on about her constantly. 😉 She had a huge impact on me and many other readers/writers I know – Miss Scarlett O’Hara!

    What’s so special about Scarlett is that I think she was the first anti-heroine. She was flawed and not particularly likable, but damned if she wasn’t compelling. She showed incredible strength and fortitude in a time when women were dismissed as being weak and less than. And what a survivor she was! No matter how many bad things happened to her, she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and kept on moving forward.

  4. kathleenirenepaterka on July 28, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Wonderful post, Laura. I really enjoyed reading about the five different characters (though 2 of them I didn’t recognize, as I haven’t / can’t read the books: Lisbeth Salander, (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Katniss Everdeen, (The Hunger Games). I will, however, echo Tracie’s suggestion of adding Scarlett O’Hara… Scarlett’s indomitable will, her stubborn insistence on doing things her own way, her drive to succeed… but always in the back of her mind, the thought of providing for her family and taking care of her own, no matter the personal cost. Scarlett will forever be my #1 heroine. ~ Kathleen

  5. Jen on July 28, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    Fantastic post, Laura! I love all the ladies your mentioned and couldn’t agree more! Gracie wanted me to add Junie B Jones. I told her you could only pick so many and Junie B was next on that list! XO

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