Monday, January 17, 2011

Some thoughts on mystery heroines

Back to work on my chili book today--still looking for recipes, so do send them along if you have them. But I'm also thinking about mysteries and their heroines--old-fashioned word, but let's use it. As I've said, I write (and hope someday to publish) cozies, not thrillers or suspense, but the more I read the more I'm finding that many heroines of cozies fall into a stereotype. I'm guilty myself in that Kelly O'Connell of Skeleton in a Dead Space can't cook and takes her kids out to eat--now why did I of all people create a heroine who can't cook? I think it's part of a pattern of incompetence for the cozy heroine--they're almost always single, usually devoted to their pets, involved in a love relationship that isn't working for one reason or another, and, worst of all, a bit flaky. They seemed to stumble into trouble and then stumble on the solution, often putting themselves and others in great peril--which, of course, adds the suspense necessary for a plot. And the law enforcement people, of whatever stripe, beg them to stay out of it--but these heroines never can.
The aspect of incompetence troubles me. I know the age of the superwoman is past--maybe she existed during the early peak of the feminist movement, when women set out to prove they could do everything and do it better than men. But often these heroines have one area in life where they are quite competent--it may be catering, journalism, the law, owning and running a business such as craft stores or bakeries or restaurants. But outside that, they are, sometimes--I hate to use the word--ditherheads. I tried to make Kelly a bit more competent by giving her two young daughters that she adores to care for, but she too has her insecure sides. One is how she looks and dresses, never reaching the air of sophistication she sees in even the casual dress of others but always settling for flannel slacks, a blazer and loafers, maybe dressing the outfit up with a silk shirt. And her hair is always unruly--common to cozy heroines. And as I said she can't cook--though I'm trying to teach her. She doesn't eat right either and her office assistant, Keisha, is always bringing her salads when she wants cheeseburgers--Keisha fills the role of sidekick. And Mike, her cop/boyfriend, begs her to stay out of crimes in the neighborhood. But she doesn't.
Don't get me wrong--I've read and thoroughly enjoyed a lot (a whole lot!) of mysteries about these ladies, but I'm puzzled by the flakiness of cozy heroines. Anybody got any thoughts? And now I'm on the lookout for capable cozy heroines. (I think I've blogged about this before, but more thoughts on the subject came my way--if I'm repeating, please forgive me.)

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