Contact Me

Email me
"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Friday, April 2, 2010

Only Unusual Jobs For Female Suspense Novel Protags?

Recently, while my historical writing has been on hiatus, an undeveloped novel concept that has been in the back of my mind for some time (one of those "what if?" questions) has pushed itself to the forefront. The very early stages--I don't have a clearly defined plot, just the what-if question, so I've been brainstorming story possibilities and writing a few paragraphs here and there just to see what would pour out of the brain and onto paper.

And it wasn't historical fiction material. Hmm....

Anyway, that led me to ask my fellow ACFW compatriots a question that had always confused me--what is the difference between mystery, suspense and thriller novels?

In a nutshell, I was told that in a mystery the emphasis is on finding out who did the dirty deed. In suspense, it's more of a ticking clock/someone's in peril and it's about avoiding that perilous end, and that thriller is like suspense, only the stakes are larger (say affecting a whole city or country or other large group of people rather than just one or two).

Okey dokey. So looking at the notes I wrote, while the story concept I have in mind doesn't completely fit the mold, it seems to most closely resemble a suspense concept.

So then off I went to Fiction Finder (, which is a great resource if you're looking for Christian fiction. You can use the site to search for titles under a particular genre, or by title, etc.

I clicked on suspense and pulled up a list of titles. I wanted to know what kind of jobs the female protags of suspense fiction held. I was somewhat surprised to find that, in the 3-4 pages of titles I scrolled, not one of these female protags held an ordinary job. By ordinary I mean a job in which many females work, not the more unusual. All the female protags were FBI agents, helicopter pilots, firefighters, corporate CEO's. And that's perfectly fine.

But what I wanted to know was--where were the data entry clerks? The store cashiers? The secretaries? Where were these everyday workers, the unsung heroes in the lower income spectrum who make the world turn and, not intentionally, get taken for granted?

Not one single "ordinary" job was to be found by a protagonist in any of the titles I screened. Is it that readers are not interested in people in more common occupations? Is it too hard to formulate workable story concepts using your every-day, non-CEO, non-FBI agent?

Maybe it is too hard to use ordinary people. I don't know. I've never tried the genre. But I'm about to find out. Because I want to use an ordinary everyday working stiff as my female protag.

Ordinary people do seem to be more common in mysteries. But my concept doesn't seem to be a mystery. ARGH!

What do you all think? What is the reason only the more "exotic" jobs are used for female protags in suspense fiction? I'd love to learn more about this.

No comments: