Posted by: nancycurteman | June 6, 2010

6 Ways to Ensure a Female Sleuth Appeals to Readers

Female sleuths should never be perfect because readers won’t be able to relate to them. Female sleuths need a balanced personality—some good habits/some bad habits, some virtues/some vices, some attractive features/some less attractive features, some dark secrets and fears that motivate her behavior. Here are some elements that provide that balance:

1.    Physical traits: Beautiful smile but a large nose. Slim waist but a bit hippie.  Nice hair but it’s frizzy in the morning or when the weather is rainy, humid or windy.

2.    Virtues and vices: Competent but strong-willed. Persistent but tends to procrastinate. Sensible but prone to taking dangerous chances. Self-confident but sometimes envious or jealous. Intelligent but opinionated.

3.    Easy going but explodes if she thinks someone’s trying to exert power over her. She may even free herself with a well-placed punch she learned from her self-defense class.

4.    Give your sleuth some secret trauma that influences her behavior and attitudes: Her first husband abused her now she won’t take the risk of an emotional involvement. Her sister walked on the wild side and died in a sideshow car race now she’s trying to save every street kid. She didn’t spend enough time with her mother who has passed away now she has a soft spot in her heart for elderly women and can’t believe an elderly woman killed off her husband.

5.    She’s scrupulously honest but believes the end justifies the means and may bend the law a little to get the information she needs.

6.    Maybe she’s been afraid of the dark since childhood but is willing to brave a dark night to apprehend the killer.

A female sleuth needs to be a woman with a woman’s problems before she can be an appealing amateur investigator.


  1. Excellent list of attributes! Consider Guest Blogging this on UhW


  2. Nice, Nancy.

    You’ll have me toying with the idea of writing a mystery novel if you keep this up.


    • Go for it. Mysteries are the biggest sellers except for romances.


  3. A good concise list. I was going to pick a favorite but i like them all. I have a couple of heroines who ae unintentional sleuths, but I think the traits could go for any heroine.


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