Sunday, March 11, 2018

Creating Characters

Every story needs memorable characters. If the people who populate your stories are bland and dull, readers will have a difficult time relating to them or caring about them.  The expression ‘white bread and mayonnaise’ comes to mind. 

It’s one of my goals when writing, to make my players memorable.  Mix up the ethnicities names, descriptions, traits, education and family influences.  Make them tall or short, fat or thin. Happy go lucky, or sad and lonely, like Eeyore. Shake them up! Imagine how boring life would be if we all looked the same, acted the same, had the same background, the same experiences and the same ideas. And stay away from stereotypes. Unpredictability is important. 



The second book in the Chene series is at the publisher’s now. With any luck, this will soon be accepted. Then we’ll start the editing process, trying to polish the manuscript to give the readers a great product.  That takes time. 

Developing characters is top of mind because I’m starting my next novel. Chene won’t sit idly by. There is work to be done, so let’s get to it. While some old favorites like Ted, Kozlowski, Pappy and Simone will appear, there will be new faces. That means creating their profiles, with more details than just physical descriptions. We all want to know more.

Here’s an excerpt from “Why 319?”.  In this scene, Chene is introducing Pappy Cantrell and it captures some of his demeanor and attitudes.

Captain Prescott “Pappy” Cantrell was in his office when I arrived. The fluorescent lights were off, but the brass floor lamp in the corner was lit. Behind him, a window was always cracked open, no matter what the weather. Despite the state law banning smoking in public buildings, Cantrell continued to light up whenever the mood struck. As a chain smoker, he was perpetually in that mood.

He was tipped back in his chair, gangly legs crossed at the ankle. The bottom drawer of his desk was open, allowing just enough space to prop his feet. In faded khakis and a blue checked shirt, Cantrell looked nothing like the stereotypical police captain. Maybe that was part of the reason he was so successful.

Taking a seat on the other side of the desk, I waited for him to start.

“Crime scene look the same?”

I nodded. “From the photos we viewed last week, it looks identical. No signs of a fight. No struggle. The victim was on her back. No splatters. No bruising. The girl was spread-eagled. It was like she’d been posed, as if she was waiting for her lover to arrive. For all intents, she could have been asleep.”

“Same message?” Cantrell worked a pen across the back of his knuckles. This was an old habit. He claimed it helped him concentrate.

“Yeah. Didn’t measure it, but I’m sure Fen will include that in his report. Lipstick will probably be the victim’s.”

“Y’all got a name?”

“Janet Calder. She drove a four-year-old Honda. We found it in the saloon parking lot next door. She checked in after six. Room had been reserved with her Visa card.”

“Family notified?”

“Not yet. Koz will call me when he’s leaving the motel. We’ll meet up at the address on the license. I think it’s an apartment building. The car registration has a different address. That could be her parents.”

Cantrell paused to light a fresh smoke. “Tell the giant to give y’all the details. Ah pulled Megan off the chop shop surveillance. Take her with ya.”

I hesitated, trying to follow the logic. “You got something against Koz?”

“You two can look about as copasetic and unnerstandin’ as two linemen going after a quarterback’s fumble in overtime. It won’t hurt to have a woman there.”

I chewed on that for a moment. “You’re pulling in the whole squad, Pappy?”

By tilting his head back, Cantrell was able to blow a plume of smoke directly at the opening of the window. Like an ancient signal, it drifted quickly through the screen. “Yep. We got the green light. It comes all the way from the capital.”

Today’s musical interlude is from Sting.  Enjoy!

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