Recently, a fan of mine remarked, “Where’s the kick-butt female character?” He was talking about Operation Shadow Box, where the lead character is a guy. Then, when a writer friend of mine who was on my beta review group for The Athena File said something like, “You write very well about strong female characters. You need to make Abigail your lead character.”
Both of those remarks got me to thinking. Save for the Last Chance Series, where half of the eight books have or will have men as the protagonists, my other novels have strong female characters as the lead.
Why do I have these strong women characters? Personally, I don’t think there’s enough of them in suspense, even though that trend seems to be shifting some. I also think that strong women characters buck the sexism that still seems rampant at times in society, despite the progress made by many women to thwart this view.
What makes a strong female character in my novels? Below are the attributes that tend to show up in my characters.
She’s in a difficult profession. Alex Thornton, the lead character in Panama Deception, worked as a covert agent before she got tossed out. When the novel opens, she’s in the general contracting business in her hometown. Both of these professions are male-dominated and come with plenty of challenges for the women in them.
She’s got a lot of different interests. My characters have lots of different interests. Before Hunter Hunted opens, Jenna Knight (formerly Emily Barstow) learned to shoot as a member of the Olympic biathlon team. She also learned the goldsmith trade.
She maintains her femininity. For my leading female characters, it’s not all about banging heads together or shooting guns. They like their girlie things too. Alex especially craves time with her girlfriends, and she likes nothing better than to dress in a cute frock for a night on the town or for vacation in Costa Rica.
She’s independent but prefers to be in community. My female protagonists can function well on their own, but they much prefer to be in community, be it with family or friends. Deborah Fields, the leading lady in Operation Shadow Box opposite Victor, has gone it alone as a widowed mother of four children. Even though she’s functioned well enough on her own, she yearns for the deep intimacy of a loving marriage relationship.
She’s strong yet broken at the same time. All of my lead characters come to the end of their own strength at some point. They learn, usually the hard way, that they need more than they have. For Alex, she has to relearn to trust God to be the source of that strength.
Lots of times, people try to tell me that I’m these characters. My reply? Facets of them, perhaps. If I don’t leave a bit of myself in each of these characters, then I’ve failed at my job as a writer. My main hope is while you may read my novels for enjoyment, you can identify with my protagonists, whether they’re male or female. We crave community. We all have been broken at some point. At other times we’ve all overcome. If you nod at these statements, then I’ve done my job.
I have not received any compensation for writing this post. The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”