What Are You Looking For in Female Protagonists in Mystery Series?

This post is worth sharing from one of my favorite blogs, Writer Unboxed. I hope you’ll read it. It prompted me to repost it and add my own thoughts, specifically about female protagonists in mystery series.

The majority of readers have let me know they thoroughly enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of my series protagonist, Britt Johansson, but she does take occasional heat from other characters in my stories because her actions can often seem reckless for a woman. That gives me, the writer, an opportunity to set the record straight.

The way I look at it, Britt’s actions could be seen as reckless if taken by an average person, man or woman, but not for Britt’s profession as a photojournalist covering international conflicts and environmental disasters. Taking risks is a pre-requisite in her line of work.

Another issue I’ve heard discussed about female protagonists, particularly in the thriller and mystery genres, is that they aren’t likeable enough, or too focused on their jobs—criticisms rarely extended to male protagonists. In Britt’s case, her mission is to help make the world aware of the plight of women and children who are victims of war. That sometimes takes a toll on her personal relationships, and she’s not the type to compromise much. Men behave that way all the time, and it’s acceptable, but when women put their careers or dreams first they’re often held to a different standard.

Books written by women with female protagonists have come a long way, but as Jo Eberhardt’s post points out, there continue to be lots of misconceptions and stereotypes. What’s satisfying to me as an author is that I get to work these things out any way I choose and so far, readers seem to like it.


Coming Soon

For those who’ve been asking, the third mystery in my Spirit Lake series is in the final stretch! As always, expect lots of threads to connect and more than a few surprises. As one reader says,

Complex murder mysteries, bone-chilling thrills and a little bit of romance

I’d like to hear your thoughts on female protagonists in the mystery genre. What are your expectations as readers?

11 thoughts on “What Are You Looking For in Female Protagonists in Mystery Series?

  1. My Hillary Broome character is still pretty traditional but I LOVE the more yangy protagonists like your Britt who reminds me of the young women I’ve seen battling to win on the rugby sevens fields at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

  2. You raise some good points, Linda. I love your Britt because she is feisty and takes chances. I think you are doing your job as an author to create strong role models for women and to show that when they are held to a different standard, they carry on and remain strong and committed to their causes.

  3. That is a fascinating article on perception of women. I do look for male and female protagonists in reading books to my 4-year-old granddaughter, but I’m sure I could do better. The article also made me think of the current presidential election where reporters/writers need to try filter out those gender stereotypes.

  4. You know what I love about Britt? She doesn’t ask permission to be herself! And yet, she has plenty of vulnerabilities. She’s an empathetic woman with a unique perspective (usually a close-up!), and she knows she sees things others don’t, even when everyone is looking at the same thing! But she’s not arrogant about it; she’s a questioning person, though, and some are threatened by that and see it as arrogant. The smart money knows the truth though! Love the cover, btw. Great job!

  5. Sadly, many of the same complaints about (strong) women protagonists are used regularly in the workplace. Not always, but frequently, a man who is dedicated, detail-oriented and hard nosed is respected and admired; a women with the same qualities is a bitch.

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