A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Friday, March 6, 2015

Strong Women: Building a Character’s Background

Posted by Sandy Parks

This week includes and celebrates Worldwide Women in Aviation week, Women in Construction week, International Women’s Day, and Women’s History month. Whew, and I probably missed a few. That’s great to know, but what do these celebrations have to do with building characters?

Any writer wants their female protagonist to be strong (or achieve that through the story), but her background must explain how she became a doctor/lawyer/pilot/spy when she came from a troubled, impoverished, or lacking of support background. Writers frequently make the heroine a successful person who climbed up by her bootstraps, often times via unbelievable circumstances. That inconvenient necessity of getting from A to B is glossed over. She is a doctor because her cancer-ridden, drug addict mother left her abandoned at a young age. Motivation, yes, but hmm. How did she get from there to having the grades, the drive, and the funds for all the education required?

How does building characters connect to these women’s week celebrations? For one, there are often events during those weeks that are specifically aimed at young women of school age to entice them into particular fields. One is happening this week near me and is sponsored by the 99s, a women’s pilot organization. They offer free first rides and hands on seminars about being a pilot. They follow up these events with scholarships to encourage women to learn how to fly or hone other skills, and often provide mentorships to get young women jobs and internships. Many a young teen working at an airfield has gone on to be an aviation mechanic or pilot.
First flight for young girl at Women In Aviation Week activity Fly it Forward.
Photo by S.Parks
Other organizations do similar things. So if your character comes from a low income family, or is orphaned, or lacks a support system, hook her up with a mentor, give her an opportunity to try her hand at construction or mechanics or business, or just about any field (especially those under-represented by women), and then let her grow. Here’s an example. For extra money, your character cleans the church after services. The pastor has a flying ministry so takes her for a flight. When she shows interest in aviation, he gets her a job at the local airfield where she gets interested in working on the planes. The head mechanic starts to teach her and suggests she eventually apply for a training scholarship from the women’s mechanic organization. Sounds boring, but it builds a plausible background for why your gal can manipulate an aircraft or even car engine with ease.
Girls waiting at tarmac gate. A female member of the Civil Air Patrol is
running ramp safety with the CAP cadets.

Boys and girls wait for their first flight at an
Experimental Aircraft Associations Young Eagles day (free first flight). 

Where can mentors come from? The woman who flies her plane on the day your character shows up at a local hangar for the free flight. Or an aerobatic pilot at the local airshow where the young girl waits to get an autograph from her favorite flyer. Or a “big brother” or “sister” who comes into her community to assist? The special mentor may also add another layer to your story and be that missing mother or father figure, or be the comedic release in your story.
99s who offered free rides at event and often act as mentors
to women interested in flying. All ages and varying careers.
Young fan standing before Patty Wagstaff's aerobatic plane at an airshow. Patty is a multiple National Aerobatic champion, instructor, and supporter of women in aviation. Photo S. Parks

All in all, a woman who works hard to build/grow into the person she is today, is more likely to have the strength to be the super heroine we want in our stories. So start thinking about that background/backstory and how it can play into building the character you need to make the story believable. Give her an opportunity to become interested in her chosen field, a mentor to guide her, and scholarships/internships to carry her to success.


Rita said...

A beautiful post. Thank you Sandy.

Anne Marie Becker said...

This is fabulous! Love the mentoring aspect. And the pictures are great! :D

jean harrington said...

Great post, Sandy, Love it that you're encouraging girls to strive in all ways.

Elise Warner said...

Fascinating post, Sandy. How times change.

Julie Moffett said...

Great post, Sandy. I love it! GIRL POWER!!! :)

Vanessa Kier said...

Love this post, Sandy! Mentors are so important, but so often overlooked.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Excellent advice, Sandy. Research shows that youth can overcome all kinds of adversity as long as they have a supporting adult in their lives. Kids are resilient, but they do need support.

Sandy Parks said...

Thanks everyone for the kind comments. Our best mentors can easily be our family, but when that's not possible those special people out in the world are gold.

Lynda said...

Great idea--not just for fiction, either. Thank you for sharing this info.

Cathy Perkins said...

Lovely post Sandy - life lessons as well as fiction development.

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