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April 25, 2018


Terri Parsons

I just finished Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki which featured two real - well developed women. Definitely passed the test!

Elaine Viets

Not familiar with that book, Terri. Will definitely look it up.

Alan P.

While reading through this, I pictured about 90% of the female characters I have ever encountered on the page. Almost every female cop is a variation on Cagney or Lacey.

I did remember one book. The author talks about a librarian who is key to the story. In the draft she was a stereotype. In the final version she is a tireless worker with tats and a scooter. A great book.

Janis Patterson

I agree with pretty much all Elaine says, especially about the rudeness of the 'kickass' heroine - though I don't see what carrying a weapon has to do with it. Many well-rounded real women carry weapons, and it has nothing to do with being rude and/or kickass. What I don't see is why this article should have been written at all. When was the last time you saw an article about "What Do Men Really Want?" Everyone has their own ideas about what they want. There is no 'one size fits all' heroine or story for women than there is for men.

Elaine Viets

LOL, Alan. That stereotype librarian was in CHECKED OUT, but I had to rewrite the book to get rid of her. Glad you liked the final version of Gladys.


I agree with the writer, except that, to me, kickass implies a woman who can hold her own in traditionally male-dominated fields. Sure, I love a woman who can defend herself physically (with or without a weapon), but to me it also means the academic who succeeds in the tenure game, the businesswoman who wins the contract, etc. it doesn’t imply rude, domineering, or lacking in empathy or compassion.


Sounds like people are looking for real characters. Sounds good to me.

Storyteller Mary

A fully developed person, caring, intelligent, brave when she needs to be but not foolhardy . . . also, I've been appreciating more and more, connected with others. Family, colleagues, and friends forming a team, looking out for each other is a component of most of the books I've been enjoying. It takes a village? I dose of humor helps also. <3
As for "kickass," I've never liked the term.

Alan P.

I think Mark nailed it. Real characters. Ones that haven't been over done would be nice too.

Cathy M

This reminds me of how Sue Grafton developed the Kinsey Milhone character from the series beginning with A is for Alibi to Y is for Yesterday. Kinsey was her own unique self and she changed as the series continued. She had flaws and strengths and was pretty self aware. Ms. Grafton let her grow and change and I always appreciated that.

That's what I want to read - non cardboard characters who are interesting and unique. And a side helping of snark and humor always help.

Elaine Viets

I like your definition of "kickass," Kerry. Maybe I need to rethink mine.

Elaine Viets

Mary's right, Mark. You nailed it.

Elaine Viets

Here, here, Mary. A dose of humor helps. Give me women who take their work seriously, but not themselves.

Elaine Viets

Yes, Cathy! Perfect. Even, dare I say it -- kickass.


Good article, Elaine. Sue Grafton and Laura Lippmann are two authors whose main female characters are strong and smart and whose relationships with their male partners/love interests don’t become the focus of the story. I am sooo sick of the romance angle hijacking what would otherwise be a good book. I’m reading a novel right now about the Hindenburg disaster. Good story, good writing, but I’m skipping pages because it keeps veering into romance. Does the author think women won’t read a book that doesn’t include a love story?
That’s the reason I watch mostly British tv- the actors look like real people and men and women actually work together without The sexual/romantic tension that seems obligatory in most American shows.

Elaine Viets

Thanks, Kay. I liked the way Grafton handles romance.

Alison J McMahan

I don't mind a good romance as long as it doesn't hijack the story. But one trope that bothers me is when a perfectly good romance ends, because the female hero is a series character and the author wants to give her a new romance in the next book.
I've often wished that the hero would keep the original relationship going, and that we could see that relationship have an arc just like the hero herself has an arc. Anne Perry and Catherine Coulter have managed to do that, but in their books the pair are hero-duos. I would like to see a book with a kickass (I don't mind that term - and I don't think it's been done well enough yet to be a cliche) female hero where a normal romance and long term relationship are part of the picture, not as a main event, and not as a revolving door minor event, but just as a normal part of everyday life, with ups and downs that sometimes take center stage and sometimes hums along in the background. I don't think I've ever seen that done properly. Tell me if I missed one out there that does that.

Patricia Gulley

It surprises me that this still needs to be said, over and over.

Margaret Hamilton Turkevich

Kinsey Milhone and Clare Ferguson are real and true characters.

Elizabeth Zelvin

British police detectives had better take their work seriously or they won't last long, whether male or female and whether written by Brits or Americans. So let's put Deborah Crombie's Gemma James on the list (and thumbs up for her egalitarian marriage) along with Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan, the late Jill McGown's Judy Hill, and others in many fine character-driven police procedurals. I also love Donna Leon's Paola Brunetti: the cop's wife, not the protagonist, and she does the family cooking, but she's a fantastic chef, has a brilliant left political analysis of the terrible times we live in, and is a professor of English lit in Venice with a passion for the works of Henry James.

Elaine Viets

Thanks, Liz, for the suggestions on believable women. As Alison said, they are few and far between.

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