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Are Crime Fiction Heroines Held To A Different Standard Than Heroes?
I’ve often wondered what makes a terrific crime fiction heroine. By that, I mean a woman of honor. I’ve been told my tough-guy heroes are men of valor and honorable men. And that makes me really happy.
However, in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) small critique group I run, as well as in the larger “critters” group I often drop into I’ve been hearing authors say 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 more likeable.
Are sleuthing and detective heroines judged differently than their male counter parts? I’m beginning to think they are. 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 might just be the reality and we crime fiction writers who love a tough heroine are gonna have to deal with it. It just 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. Put a bullet right 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. I’m also not happy with novels that don’t have accurate police procedure. I’m equal opportunity on that one. Just as unhappy if the hero is making stupid mistakes in police work. It doesn’t have to be the heroine who doesn’t have a clue as to what’s expected of a law enforcement officer in the field. There are plenty of detective novels out there where the hero seems to stumble through.
That said, is it just me, or is there a tendency on the part of female 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.