KJ Howe hosting author D.P. Lyle, M.D.
I've had the pleasure of knowing D.P. Lyle, Director of CraftFest, for many years. Not only is he a cardiologist, an expert in forensics, and a guru in the craft of writing, he is also a award-winning author. I often wonder when he sleeps. Please welcome D.P. as my guest today where is talking about his strong female protagonists. Let's go Rogue...
KICK-ASS WOMEN CHARACTERS
by DP Lyle
Here’s a truth that men intuitively know about women: They are smarter than we are and they don’t play fair. It’s true in life and can make for wonderful fictional characters. In my work I have created three smart, tough, kick-ass, and completely unfair female characters who I simply love writing about.
Case in point—Samantha Cody.
Sam is not big, being 5-9 and a buck thirty, but you never—never—want to challenge or threaten her. You see, Sam’s a cop and, oh yeah, a professional boxer. If she can’t stop you with words—logic, threats, pointing out better options—-she will with a mighty good left hook. This from Original Sin:
NOTE: Sam is out for an early morning country road run and is confronted by the always pleasant Watson brothers.
“Why do you feel the need to threaten everyone?” Sam said. “Don’t you see that threats only make you seem more guilty.”
“You need some manners.” Eric reached into the small cargo area behind the seats and pulled out a coiled rope. “Maybe we should simply hog tie your ass and explain how things are to you.”
“I understand you two aren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier so let me give you some advice. Don’t try anything stupid. People only get away with so much stupidity and I suspect you guys have done a lot of stupid in your life. Sort of living on borrowed time.” She smiled at them. “Take care.” Again she jogged away.
The truck loped along behind her. These guys were becoming annoying. Then the truck moved up beside her yet again. As she looked toward them, the lasso fell around her shoulders and suddenly tightened across her chest, trapping her arms to her side. The truck sped up, forcing her to run with it or be dragged.
Eric, twisted in his seat, both arms out the window, clutching the rope, laughing. “Good day for a run isn’t it? Think you can keep up?”
The truck’s speed increased slightly, Sam now in a hard run. She had to do something. She managed to slip her arms free but the rope was now around her waist. Before Eric could react, she grasped the rope with both hands, dug in her heels, and came to a stop. The rope jerked free of Eric’s grasp. Good thing he was stoned and his reflexes were slowed, his grip weakened. She loosened the noose and stepped out of it. The truck stopped and he jumped out.
“Not so fast. Missy,” he said as he came toward her. “Guess we’re going to have to do this the hard way.”
The hard way? Sam actually loved the hard way. She closed on him quickly, not giving him time to think, set his feet, react to her attack in any meaningful way.
The voice of her old trainer, Jimmy Ryker, echoed in her head: Hit first, hit hard, and keep hitting until they don’t move anymore. Sounded like a good plan.
The left hook was perfect, the straight right hand better. The hook staggered Eric, the right put him down. She heard the gear shift slam into park and the driver’s door pop open. She stepped over Eric, who lay on the ground glassy eyed and moaning, and met Elvin head on as he circled in front of the truck. From the surprised look on his face, not exactly what he was expecting. Probably thought she’d run. Two lefts and right took Eric down, too.
Time to leave.
She knew they wouldn’t be down long and she was three miles from town, from help. She scanned the horizon, looking for some place to hide or at least get them on foot where she had the advantage. She saw no refuge so she ran, hard, straight ahead, along the edge of the asphalt, trying put as much distance between her and them as she could.
Then there’s Claire McBride. My Dub Walker thriller series might star Dub and his best buddy, tough as nails homicide investigator T-Tommy Tortelli, but it’s their long time friend and Dub’s ex-wife-with-benefits Claire that often stirs the chili. She’s an investigative reporter who doesn’t suffer fools well—-especially Dub and T-Tommy. She doesn’t use her fists, as would Sam, but rather her sharp tongue and sarcasm. From Hot Lights, Cold Steel—the second of three Dub Walker stories:
NOTE: Dub and T-Tommy are trying to find a way into Talbert Medical to hopefully find evidence or at least to get a look around.
I went through the pictures again. Talbert wasn’t wide open, but it wasn’t exactly a fortress, either. The chain-link fence was a hundred or so feet from the building. The upper floor windows were about four feet wide by six feet tall, the lowers similar in width but only two feet high. All were the metal-framed, push-out type. A small white sign with red lettering said, Protected by Gorman Security.
“I guess we could break in. Doesn’t look very high-tech, and the guards seem disinterested.”
“Might work,” T-Tommy said.
Claire sighed. “You guys are low-functioning idiots.”
“Because we want to dig into Talbert?” I asked.
“No. Because testosterone is a dangerous drug. You would butt a door down even if you had the key in your pocket.”
“And you propose what?” I asked.
Claire rolled her eyes and took her cell phone from her purse. “What’s Talbert’s number?”
T-Tommy gave it to her, and she punched it in, waited a second, and then said, “Mr. Talbert’s office, please. . . . This is Claire McBride, Channel 8 News. Is Mr. Talbert available? . . . I’d like to arrange a meeting with him. . . . I’m working on a story about minimally invasive surgery. I got Mr. Talbert’s name from Dr. Liz Mackey over at Memorial Medical Center. I have a few questions I’d like to ask him if he has the time. I’ll only need about fifteen minutes or so.” She covered the phone and said to us, “She’s checking.” Then into the phone she said, “That would be great. I’ll be there at three. Thanks.” She closed the phone. “Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
She can be such a smart-ass sometimes.
Lastly, there’s Nicole Jamison. She’s the extremely beautiful, ex-actress, current screenwriter love interest of reluctant P.I Jake Longly, the protagonist of my new comedic thriller series. Nicole is smart and can drop into her acting chops when needed if a dangerous situation lurks. From Deep Six:
NOTE: Jake and Nicole are on board criminal king pin Victor Borkov’s Yacht attempting to garner information on a murder Barkov is suspected of being involved in while also trying to isolate Borkov’s girlfriend Grace, who they suspect knows the real story. All without letting Barkov know they are investigating the murder for Jake’s P.I. father Ray and homicide detective Bob Morgan. Nicole saves the day by writing her own script.
Borkov nodded. “But you don’t work for your dad?”
“Nope. Not that he doesn’t try to lure me into his world.”
Borkov took a couple puffs on his cigar, exhaling upward, waving away the smoke. “I hear he’s investigating that murder that happened over on The Point? The Plummer woman?”
“I wouldn’t know. Like I said, Ray and I don’t run in the same circles.”
“So the other night. Out on Peppermill Road. Wasn’t that you that got a couple of windows hammered out? Right near the Plummer home?”
This was definitely not going as expected. What exactly did Borkov know? That we were scamming him? That Nicole and I weren’t simply accidental tourist? How the hell did he know about my confrontation with Tammy? Why would he know? He obviously had connections within the Gulf Shores PD, and, if so, did he know we were hooked up with Detective Morgan? That would be a game changer. Was my face as red and sweaty as it felt?
I glanced toward the pier, almost expecting to see Ray and Pancake storming the Bastille.
“That was my ex,” I said. “I was parked near her house. She took offense.”
“You asshole.” It was Nicole. She slugged my shoulder. “What the hell were doing over at that psycho’s house?”
“I wasn’t. I was outside.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “You promised me you’d never see her again.” She looked at Borkov. “He’s addicted to her. Can’t seem to throw the hook. Every time I think we have a future he does some shit like this.” She stood and tossed her napkin on the table.
Damn she’s good. And just might have saved our bacon.
“It’s not that way,” I said, following her lead.
“Really? What goddamn way is it then?” She glared at me. “Sometimes I could just strangle you.” She stormed off toward the bow of the ship.
Grace stood. “I’ll make sure she’s okay.”
I love each of these characters. Though they have much in common, they are also very different. But not in smarts and toughness. Each possesses those qualities in spades.
So, how do you create a great female character? Just like you would any other character—male or female. Sure she can be beautiful, desirable, and very feminine but give her flaws and skills that make her pop off the page. Remember, it’s character flaws that often get your protagonist in trouble, and skills—often unknown to her until she is forced to discover and use them—-that get her out. With Sam, she is often too narrow in her thinking, too focused on the straight line from point A to point B, and that leads her into dicey situations. But she has wit, charm, smarts, and those deadly fists that extract her from danger. With Claire and Nicole, they are beautiful women that are often taken for less than smart. That’s a mistake. They can cut you up with their words and clever deceptions. Never take either for granted.
Your character doesn’t have to be physically overpowering but she must have some skills that come to her aid at her darkest hour. Find those and use them and you will have a true heroine.
D. P. Lyle is the Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Silver Award winning and Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Scribe, Silver Falchion, and USA Best Book Award nominated author of both non-fiction and fiction (the Samantha Cody, Dub Walker, and Jake Longly thriller series and the Royal Pains media tie-in series). Along with Jan Burke, he is the co-host of Crime and Science Radio. He has served as story consultant to many novelists and the screenwriters of shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.
His next book, Deep Six, is the first in his Jake Longly comedic thriller series and will be available from Oceanview on July 5, 2016.
Crime & Science Radio: http://www.dplylemd.com/crime--science-radio.html
Thanks, D.P., for sharing your thoughts on strong female protagonists. Anyone have any questions regarding this topic or even forensics questions? Our resident expert is here, ready to answer.