28 Heroines Later

In early January I set myself the goal of publishing a heroine for every day in February. Each heroine would come with artwork and a 6d6 character sheet. In addition to setting myself a writing challenge I wanted to celebrate heroines. I set myself a strict definition of heroine – a female character who is the primary agent of change in their story; a woman with agency.

I started by writing a list of keywords that I would use when searching for the artwork. I’ve been burnt before when trying to find artwork that fits the text, so for 28 Heroines I would find the artwork first and use that to inspire the writing. In selecting the keywords, I essentially chose the twenty eight character archetypes or roles that the characters would have. I avoided anything that might define their appearance and deliberately tried to avoid fantasy RPG tropes. I didn’t want twenty eight variations of “woman with sword”.

I focused my artwork search efforts on DeviantArt. I wanted drawn artwork which meant Flickr and other stock photo sites weren’t going to be much help. DeviantArt also makes it clear how each image is licensed, allowing me to tailor a google search around my keywords. The majority of January was taken up in finding artwork that met my criteria. I wanted diversity of body shape, age and skin colour. Anything sexualised was immediately discounted. I think I did a pretty good job but the trend did slip more towards younger characters. Particular thanks go to Whitney Marie Delaglio, MizaelTengu and ashleyboonePierce for granting me permission to use their pieces. You can find all the artwork that I liked but didn’t end up using here – https://cyancqueak.deviantart.com/favourites/

Once I had a good set of images I started writing, mostly during my lunch times with paper and pencil. Here, as with the imagery, I set myself criteria. Each heroine would not be defined by their love life nor by their gender. They would not be beholden to anyone else. The focus would start on what they were currently doing and dip into their history only as needed. Their physical description wasn’t important unless it related to a skill they had. Each character also had to be facing some kind of choice. These didn’t always have to be major turning points in a life but they should be emotionally important to the character. When it came to naming the characters, I went with an alphabetical scheme. Here I also endeavored to provide a diverse range of names. Where possible I used names appropriate to the character’s culture and if said culture wasn’t prominent I avoided using English as a default.

Some of the characters flowed easily from my imagination into prose. Aurora Valentine was a pre-existing character from a 6d6 Lovecraft adventure but the rest are completely new. Disa, Eun-Bi and Fanuna were no trouble at all to write, the text flowing easily from the first sentence. Verni took three attempts before I was happy her story was good enough. The original pitch had her as a freedom fighter against an oppressive occupier. In addition to the prose feeling stilted, it didn’t feel like the words fitted the character. In attempt number two she was a thief but it too felt unoriginal and dull. Eventually I was able to use the cloth in the artwork’s background as inspiration.

Day twenty eight also presented a challenge. I had no keyword assigned to the day and had originally intended to select a piece of artwork that hadn’t quite fitted elsewhere. When it was time to finally make a decision I was in the awkward position of having too many characters to choose from. In the end it came down to a choice between a western character and steampunk character. With neither image provoking me, I realised that I’d managed to avoid entirely a traditional fantasy adventure, an omission I rectified with Aafna.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this project as much as I did. Please let me know if you had any particular favourites. You can find the complete list of heroines here – https://6d6rpg.com/rpg/tag/28-heroines/.

Image Credit – Girls, Children Kids Friends Young by cherylholt – CC0