You probably know the famous newsletter that everyone says you should subscribe to if you’re a writer: “Funds for Writers.” Our Lit Lady, Busy Lady (AKA Brandi Schmidt/Elle Sharpe), found her publisher for The Kindling in this newsletter. Today, we have the founder/editor/writer of “Funds for Writers,” C. Hope Clark, who is also known for The Shy Writer and The Carolina Slade Mystery series, on our blog, talking about strong female protagonists and why they SHOULD NOT be unusual or that different from men. Love this post!
She is also celebrating a release for a new mystery series. Check out Murder on Edisto, a novel set in South Carolina.
Strong Skirts by C. Hope Clark
“What makes you write about strong female characters?”
The question threw me the first time I heard it. I recall thinking I had no idea. Maybe because I don’t like writing about weak female characters? While the knee-jerk response smacks of sarcasm, it’s not far from the truth. Nobody wants to read about a woman who doesn’t try, who doesn’t win, who can’t climb her way out of the well, or worst of all, who is a victim.
Wait a minute. Nobody wants to read about ANYBODY who falls into those categories. Maybe therein lies the problem. We assume the man is strong, and watch as the woman has to prove she is. That rubs me wrong. So I write stories that challenge that mentality, doing my part to show that women can be naturally strong just like a man, and even enjoy the feeling.
I write mysteries with female protagonists. They solve crimes after experiencing nasty stuff. In Lowcountry Bribe, the first book in my Carolina Slade Mysteries, she’s blindsided by a client offering her a bribe. She calls in the federal agents. The culprit turns into a much worse threat. So do her husband and her boss. Suddenly she’s left with only the agent supporting her back, and he’s about to lose his job. She fears authority now. Then she’s physically attacked and decides not to call the police because she has little proof of the molester. After she’s taken so much abuse, when almost everything is taken from her, she digs deep and pursues justice on her own terms.
I’ve been amazed at readers who’ve asked me, “Why didn’t she just call the police?” Some have wondered why the agent didn’t take care of her. Some judged her for allowing herself to stumble into the situations. A member of my critique group actually asked why the agent didn’t take out the bad guy, and why my character didn’t wait for a man to show up and help her.
It’s as if we’ve forgotten that today we have female cops, federal agents, detectives, firefighters, and private investigators. Why should women wait for the man to show? I want to cheer when women write thanking me for molding a strong woman. It’s who they want to be. It shouldn’t be a surprise when a woman takes matters into her own hands.
Then I began using the strong woman resistance in my stories. In Tidewater Murder, our federal agent returns. Our protagonist has another case to solve. But when things get dicey, the agent wants our heroine to back away and let him handle things. Of course she doesn’t, and in her unique way, scrambles and scraps through the mess to not only solve the case, but also save the agent. I like to think women everywhere are cheering.
In Palmetto Poison, two agents give her a hard time, and she has to dish it back at them. As a stark contrast, I make one of those agents a woman, a dynamo who overcompensates for her chromosomes and complicates everybody’s life. Two weaker women find their power as well. I’m not painting brawny Amazon women here. I’m giving them permission to feel empowered.
My newest release is Murder on Edisto, and the heroine is a detective whose life has imploded. She’s broken in many ways and now fights against her natural need to be strong since her past has burned her so badly. We watch how her instincts react in the face of murder, her stubbornness, and her fear. She’s three dimensional, like any man.
Women can be soft and they can be hard, and there’s a reason the lioness, not the lion, protects the cubs. There’s an inherent capacity in a woman to stand firm, tackle danger, and wade through adversity if for no other source than her impulse to protect the young. But even setting motherhood aside, women can be strong and men can be strong.
Can’t we just like to read about strong protagonists and leave it at that?
BIO: C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mysteries and her newest Edisto Island Mysteries, with the debut Murder on Edisto, September 2014. Hope is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, a site chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray when she’s not strolling the shore of Edisto Beach, both in her beloved South Carolina. Find out more at: www.chopeclark.com