Monday, January 30, 2017

Feisty Crime Fiction Heroines Not As Likable As Strong Heroes? by Nike N Chillemi.

What makes a terrific crime fiction heroine? By that, I mean a woman of honor seeking justice. I've been told my tough-guy heroes are men of valor and nobility (in the classical sense). And that makes me happy.
However, in the various venues I frequent (critique groups, social media groups, and so forth), authors have said they're getting comments that their strong-minded heroine isn't sympathetic. These authors go on to state everyone loves their rough-and-ready hero, but can't warm up to the very capable heroine. Ya know what? I've had similar comments and have labored to get my heroines likeable.
Are female sleuths and detectives judged differently than their male counter parts? The evidence shows this might very well be. A hero can be blunt, caustic, assertive to the point he's nearly aggressive and everyone loves him. Let a heroine toss off one barbed remark and half the readers begin cooling to her.
Quite frankly, this seems to be the reality and we crime fiction writers who love a tough heroine are going have to deal with it. It may be that if you're going to write a snarky heroine, you're going to have to work overtime to make her sympathetic. Many women complain that in life, in the workplace, even in the home, a man can get away with things a woman can't. (I'm sure the reverse is true, but we're not talking about that.)
It seems in crime fiction the hero can definitely get away with things a heroine can't. In a thriller, he can shoot five bad guys dead and step right over their bodies. He can put a bullet straight through one of the thug's eyeballs and still come off with high praise from readers. Let the heroine do that, in the same back-against-the-wall scenario, and readers might suggest she'd been excessively violent.
Strictly, between you and me, I'm not crazy about sappy heroines who seem to catch the killer almost by accident. A female sleuth blithely walking through a crime scene in stilettos, totally unaware she's destroying evidence, will not thrill me at all. Then again, I'm unhappy if the hero makes stupid mistakes in police work. I'm equal opportunity on that one. I expect all detective main characters, regardless of gender, to have adequate knowledge of what's expected of a law enforcement officers in the field.
That said, is it just me, or is there a tendency on the part of readers (and let's not forget writing contest judges) not to give the heroine a break? And is that doubly true if she's rip-roaring strong? I think so.

Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started at a very young age. Her first major work was a Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned as a little girl (colored might be more accurate) about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and its Chair, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories; and an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series (out of print), set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. The first novel in the Veronica "Ronnie" Ingels/Dawson Hughes series HARMRUL INTENT won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense category. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network.


Jenna V said...

It seems tough and feminine sleuths have lost ground among devotees; A few of my old favorites were Myrna Loy as Nora Charles - gorgeous, smart AND snarky, Brenda Starr - bombshell investigative reporter, Emma Peel, a British undercover agent who could be hard boiled and clever and Mary Beth Lacey~ a no nonsense NYC cop. Maybe the popularity of Murder She Wrote, Remington Steele, Moonlighting and the like with less abrasive gal gumshoes turned the tide.

H L Wegley said...

I don't write crime fiction, but I do write thrillers that often include crime. One thing that has worked well for me is to have both a strong-minded heroine and a tough guy in the story along with a romance developing between the two. Seeing the soft side of two tough people seems to make them both more likable.