The Modern Woman In Books


I have to get this off my chest. I am so frustrated with the portrayal of the modern woman in books. There are three types and I am so over them. Which is a problem because I like books with female leads.

There’s the nitwit, the romantic, and the Unlikable One. Don’t worry, I have examples of all of them.

The nitwit is completely incompetent and nearly everything wrong in her life is her own fault. My examples for this are Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich) and Betsy Taylor (Mary Janice Davidson).

The romantic usually has a demanding career that she loves, but secretly yearns to be swept off her feet. Think Lindsey Boxer (James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club) and Kay Scarpetta (Patricia Cornwell).

The unlikeable female lead is severely emotionally damaged and usually has a mountain of secrets. To some degree Aislinn Cain is this type of female lead. Another example is Nora Pennington (Ellery Adams) and Jane Hawk (Dean Koontz).

I don’t feel any of these types of characters are realistic snapchats of the modern woman. Why does Lindsey Boxer need a man to make her feel like her life is fulfilled? She’s great at her job and has great friends. The problem with all these women is that in many ways, they are all unhappy. I’m left asking why isn’t Lindsey and Kay enough for themselves? Why do they need an external person to make them feel happy? Why does Betsy and Stephanie constantly whine that things aren’t their fault when it’s obvious to everyone that everything wrong is their fault? And finally, why hasn’t Nora and Jane made an appointment with a therapist to deal with their feelings and start moving forward with their lives… truly moving forward not just running away?

I mean, why can’t any of these women be happy? Perhaps my sample size is weird, but I find most of my female friends to be happy people. They are happy with themselves and with their lives. They aren’t constantly making excuses for the disasters in it and searching for someone to complete them nor so emotionally damaged they are stuck in the past.

Which made me realize something else; there is a reason I read Pride & Prejudice and the Miss Marple books over and over again. The women are happy. Elizabeth admits her own shortcomings, she is witty, intelligent, competent, capable, and while she’s a bit stuck in life and only a good marriage will keep her from becoming someone’s governess or house maid, she doesn’t aspire to a good marriage simply because she doesn’t want to be those things. She is determined to marry for love, real love, but if she never finds it, she never finds it and she will take care of all of Jane and Bingley’s children and be just as happy. In Miss Marple’s case; she is capable, competent, never chased after a man desiring his affection and attention. She wanted to be appreciated for all her capabilities and when she didn’t find a man to do that, she realized it was better to grow old alone than marry for comfort and risk her happiness. And she loves her amatuer career and finds fulfillment in it.

I don’t know why there aren’t more female characters like this. Especially in modern books. Isn’t finding happiness in yourself part of being a modern woman? Also, while I realize plenty of women have baby rabies, I also know not every woman does and you are just as likely to find a woman who doesn’t want a bunch of children these days. So why do so many women in books pine for children, marriage, the white picket fence, and the role of stay-at-home mom?

The problem with my writing one of these characters is that I tend not to read my own books. I get distracted by the plot lines and feel the need to rewrite the book.

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