Who doesn’t love red-blooded, shoot from the hip badass women? 

One who’ll entice you with sweet words and bedroom eyes, only to pull a gun on you as soon as you succumb to her charms.

Men love them because there’s something so sexy about a woman who takes control into her own hands.

And women love them because they want to be them.

Who doesn’t love red-blooded, shoot from the hip badass women?

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Badass Women Are More Fun

You may not want to marry a BAW or have one as your best friend, but they are certainly a lot of fun to invite into your imagination as a reader or writer.

I much prefer to read stories where the protagonist is a BAW.

As an author I find they are much more fun to write than a mousy heroine whose main flaw is a lack of self-esteem.

And whose worst vice is eating an entire bucket of caramel pecan ice-cream in one sitting.

There’s nothing a man can do that I can’t do better, and in heels.’ Ginger Rogers.

Although there are BAW in every genre of fiction, many of them hang out in noir and crime books.

As I mention in my previous blog post, Three Reasons To Love Noir, there’s a crossover between crime and noir.

In it, I describe noir fiction in detail, showing how many noir novels contain an element of crime

Noir evolved from hardboiled crime fiction from the 1930s onwards and in its early days was very male oriented.

Female characters usually played a supporting role.

Mostly it was the femme fatale, the distraught victim or the forbearing wife.

If they were the perpetrators of crime, it was often because they’d been led astray or forced into it by the controlling male protagonist.

However, after the Great Literary Uprising of the 21st century, thousands of subjugated female characters held a rally in the New York Public Library.

They marched out of the pages of their books and demanded equal rights to be the nasty, violent antiheroes of their own stories.

Since then, fictional BAW have been springing up like mushrooms.

Famous Badass Women

One of the most famous modern BAW is Lisbeth Salander in the Millenium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

A brilliant computer hacker, she is also volatile, anti-social and frequently violent.

However she also engenders empathy in the reader because of her horrific childhood.

She had a violent father, adolescence in a psychiatric institution and sexual abuse by her guardian.

You can understand her dislike of authority and her inability to trust people.

And you sense a kernel of vulnerability underneath her tough exterior.

It’s often the case with many fictional BAW – they act the way they do because of their earlier experiences.

Poverty, neglect, abusive relationships.

But instead of staying in the victim role they take control and fight for what they consider is their rightful place in the world.

Regardless of the price.

This can be anything from broken hearts and deceit to violence and murder.

Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth is the quintessential badass woman.

Others include Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations and Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery.

Also Nurse Ratched from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper from Rebecca and Cathy Ames from East of Eden.

More Badass Women At A Bookstore Near You

Badass women are frequently unlikable, but always fascinating.

The best ones are a complex mix of attractive and nasty traits.

Acclaimed noir author Megan Abbott, has written a number of novels set in the 1940s and 50s, full of gangsters and Hollywood glamour.

She frequently writes of ‘good girls’ who are seduced into the seamy side of life.

They have to dig down to their inner BAW woman to survive.

Here are my reviews on Goodreads of a couple of Megan Abbott’s books: Die A Little and Bury Me Deep.

There’s a new generation of female noir authors writing a wide variety of badass women.

If you want more badass women in your fantasy life, you need look no further than Gillian FlynnVicki HendricksChrista FaustCathi Unsworth and Sara Gran.

My Own BAW

I’m having fun writing my own BAW, Eva Dennehy, in my current work in progress, Murder Undone.

Eva is given the opportunity to travel back in time to undo a crime she committed 20 years ago.

Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan.

What are your thoughts on BAW in fiction?

Have you met any lately? I’d love to know.

Let me know in the comments box below.


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