22 February 2020

No More Downer Books! (aka Does anyone else out there hate unreliable narrators?)

I’m tired of downer books. I don’t want to be depressed after reading for three hours. Bear with me: I’ll explain further.

The problem is, most of the downer elements of grim books involve women who are victims. Either victims of crime, or victims of a patriarchal society. Scandinavian Noir is full of the first. In fact, most noir novels include a female who is murdered and often hideously mutilated. That’s so much fun for women to read.

So here goes:

I don’t want to read any more books about women who are abused or downtrodden. I know there are several good books out there right now featuring such women. Some are historical. Some are current day. It’s not that they aren’t good. It’s just that I don’t want to read any more of them. I’ve read enough.

Imagine, men, if most of the books you had read involved men who had been victimized, or relegated to second class status by another gender. One or a few might be interesting to read. But a steady diet of these? Would you not find it depressing? Not to mention, discouraging?

I don’t want to read any more books about neurotic women, or women who can’t get it together.

I dread more ‘unreliable narrators.’ Salient point: did you notice that most (okay, every single one I can think of) unreliable narrators on the bestseller lists recently are women? Does that say something to you about how society views women? It does to me. No more ‘girl’ books.

I don’t want to read any more books this year with female protagonists that are written by men. Yes, that means some of the bestselling crime books out there. They may be very well written. But these rarely sound like women’s stories to me. They aren’t written with the same lens.

What I want: books with intelligent female protagonists written by women. I want more women’s stories. Books that I can be proud to hand on to my daughters, and say, see what is possible? She isn’t a victim! She’s someone like you.

Trouble is, I can’t FIND many books like that. The bestseller lists today are filled with protagonists who are unstable, neurotic women. Let me be clear: a lot of people enjoy these books. They may be very well written. They wouldn’t be on bestseller lists, otherwise.

But I’m tired of them. I want a ripping good story with a female protagonist, written by a woman. I want a strong, admirable protagonist I can relate to and care about. Hell, I want to *be* the protagonist for a few hours.

And not come away feeling downtrodden.

Bad Girl writes loopy comedies to blow away the blues. And she guarantees that the women protagonist and secondaries in her books kick butt.

THE GODDAUGHTER DOES VEGAS - latest in the "Hilarious" (EQMM) mob goddaughter series - no blues allowed! On Amazon


  1. Lets hear it for the Untrodden!

  2. Whoops - I mean Janice. My apologies. Need coffee.

  3. Yes. Yes. I agree. Well done posting.

  4. Thanks O'Neil! I seem to have written an unpopular post. Shocking stuff, apparently, grin.

  5. Amen! I won't read anything called a "crime thriller" anymore, because it's probably just going to be torture porn. Not fun for me to see women's bodies mutilated by serial killers. Serial killers are boring. They have no motivation. Just that they like to cut up women. Yuck! And I agree on the unreliable narrators. Maybe I'd read a male unreliable narrator. A delusional noir detective would be fun.

  6. Yes! This, BTW, despite their being old fashioned novels, is why I love Christie's Miss Marple and Sayers' Harriet Vane. Nothing neurotic - or victim - about either one of them.

  7. Great post and I completely agree with you.

  8. Only one other guy has thus far braved weighing in, but I largely agree with you. I don't care if the protagonist is male or female, only that they're intelligent and have some sort of 'grounding', to use an old-fashioned word. It's not intentional, but my reading history suggests I prefer female writers.

    Statistically, we know murders and crimes against women in fiction are way out of proportion to real life (regardless of author gender). We should be killing off clich├ęs and stereotypes, but we writers seem to be an evil murderous lot.

  9. I understand. Of course, murder — even cozy — is a downer. But I agree: give me tasteful Golden Age over the current crop of psychodramas.

  10. The psychological thriller is THE genre these days. Many are written by women and most of the women in those stories seem decent and honorable protagonists and then you find out they're really horrible manipulative people. Why do we write about ourselves like this? I hate it.

  11. Anne, I'm right with you. I SO agree about serial killers. It lets the writer off from creating motivation, and that's the most fun part of a mystery book for the reader! Thanks for commenting.

  12. Eve, I so agree. Nothing can beat Christie and the early writers for clean and cunning murders. I want my murder with a delicious motive: greed, lust or revenge - grin.

  13. Leigh, you've given me something to think about.

    RT - I'm not sure I would say murder including cozies is a downer. I love a good murder mystery and write them. What is a downer for me is the graphic violence on women almost lovingly portrayed by some writers. But even more: I absolutely hate it when the protagonist tries to trick me. I am a reader who needs to care about the protagonist in order to want to read a book. If I develop that caring for the protagonist, and then finds she's been tricking me all along (unreliable narrator) then I'm angry at the end of the book. Feel like I've wasted my time.

  14. Eve, you said it so much better than I did. Thank you! I hope it's just a fad. Yes, it's hard to come up with original murder plots, and perhaps this shows that some writers are having a hard time with ideas. I'm glad I wrote this blog now, because I was beginning to think I was the only one disappointed in the unreliable narrator trope.


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