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.

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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?

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Get Out of the Way

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Photo shared from The Writer’s Circle

Yesterday I read, “How to Abandon Your Outline to Improve Your Story” by Steven James in one of my favorite blogs, Writer Unboxed. I knew it was a good piece and timely for me when my brain popped with several ideas for the draft I’m working on in my new Spirit Lake mystery.

James offered great advice:

  • Focus on story, not plot
  • Let context guide you
  • Always opt for believability
  • Include more twists
  • Fulfill your promises
  • Get out of the way

Even though I’m not an outliner, writing a good mystery requires keeping readers (and me) guessing and entertained. That doesn’t happen without knowing where I’m going with the story. However, there comes a point where I forget to get out of the way and attempt to shoehorn the story into my plan. That’s when the creative process takes a backseat to being safe.

And isn’t that what often happens to us in our everyday lives as well? Our preconceived ideas keep us from getting out of the way and allowing more surprises and twists. Are you open to a few surprises today?

Happy reading and writing!

My Long-time Love Affair with Libraries

Our family moved often when I was a child.  As a young, single woman, I wanted to see and experience new horizons and my grandmother used to say I had wandering feet. Then I married a journalist and we moved several times during the first years of our marriage. We’ve stayed in California a long time now, although the desire to pick up and move every so often still comes over me.

One constant everywhere I’ve lived has been my connection to my neighborhood library. I can’t remember the first time a smiling librarian placed a library card in my hand, but wherever I’ve moved over the years, I don’t feel settled until I’ve visited the library and received my card.

I carried on the tradition with my children. We started visiting the library every week as soon as they were old enough to hold a book in their hands, and maybe even before. They attended story hours and special children’s events and were proud bearers of their own library cards.

Capitol Crimes, my local chapter of Sisters in Crime, holds its meetings in Sacramento library community rooms. And, since publishing my first book, I’ve participated in author events at several Sacramento libraries to talk about my books and discuss how I work. As an introvert, the fact that these events have been held in familiar and welcoming settings has made what could have been stressful, a pleasant experience every time.

On April 12, I’ll be among forty authors from the Sacramento area invited to participate in the Sacramento Public Library’s Local Author Book Festival. We’ll be gathering at the downtown galleria library from 1-3 p.m. to talk about our books and say hello to family, friends and visitors.

For me, libraries have been a place of wonder, refuge at times and always an important part of my life. I can’t think of any place I’d rather be, and I hope you’ll join us.

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Mirror Writing

This morning I held a pen in each hand and wrote the same sentence backward with my left and forward with my right simultaneously, starting at the middle of the page and working out. It was easy and legible (It’s called mirror writing so you have to turn the paper over to see the left-handed backward writing the correct way). Oddly enough, I’ve been writing backward with my left hand since I was a kid, but it never occurred to me to try writing with my right at the same time until Lee Lofland, a former police investigator and the presenter at our Capitol Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime meeting mentioned that he was left handed and could write that way. I’d never even heard of it before.

I had to try it and it worked as if I’d always done it. That made me wonder what else I could do that I’d never tried. This was a hands-on experiment (pun intended) with a big lesson attached.

I couldn’t leave it alone and started searching the Internet for more information. I was elated to discover that I was in good company. Leonardo Da Vinci was a mirror writer! Unfortunately, I kept digging only to find out that it could have something to do with dyslexia or possibly neurological issues of the dubious kind. But that aside, I’m definitely interested in discovering what else I don’t know I can do. Are there skills you didn’t know you had until you somehow managed to try them?

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To really mess with some basic truths we’ve all been taught, I recommend watching this TED talk. It opened my mind in a slightly different way.

10 Myths about Psychology Debunked

Love Letter

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Writer Unboxed, one of my favorite blogs, inspired me this morning with Julia Munroe Martin’s post, Writing….Will You Be My Valentine?

Check it out for several fun and touching love letters to writing. Here’s mine:

Dear Writing,

You’re my soul mate. We’ve been together as long as I can remember. You whisper enticing stories and ideas to me that magically, and sometimes painfully (love hurts) appear on the page.

We’ve had our differences of opinion, a word here or there, a stubborn impasse, but those moments are short-lived. I can’t imagine my existence without you, and I know you wouldn’t exist without my fingertips holding a pen or tapping on a keyboard. We are one.

Forever yours,

Linda

What would your love letter to writing say?