“There really must be a murder, or at least a major felony — otherwise, what’s the point? Who’s ripping off the hand towels at the Dorchester Hotel is hardly the business of a mystery novel.”
– Howard Haycraft
So far the ‘writing’ phase of writing a crime novel hasn’t even started. Normally I’m not a big planner so I generally start writing rather quickly. But I knew that crime novels took a lot of work. You have to plan everything. Every twist and turn, everything little thing needs to be accounted for. There wasn’t any jumping straight in with this story.
After planning out who my victims were, how they were killed, where they were dumped and why the killer chose them; I was happy. Same with planning my killer. I felt my reasoning and idea for the character were solid so I moved on.
The Main Character
“The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic.”
– G. K. Chesterton
Opening up a new word document I knew it was time to decided who was going to be my Sherlock Homes, who was going to be my Olivia Benson. Who was going to be my kick ass lead crime fighting hero who would save the day? And it almost seemed simple.
Most of the time when I come up with a character, at first, they aren’t what you would call three dimensional. In fact they are always two dimensional. And generally I like to have my characters revealed themselves as I write. I like seeing them unfold on the page. So creating a character, from the get-go, and making them three dimensional certainty wasn’t simple. Breaking old habits is hard in any situation, but I find breaking writing habits is even more hard.
I managed to do what I needed to do though. Starting off with the basics: name, age, appearance, desire, and life. The character came to life. Then I went in with the more detailed questions. I find asking even the most unimportant things can reveal your character. Their favourite colour, for instant, could reflect a lot in their life, or even their most hated colour.
Instead of thinking all the questions to ask about my character, I find looking online for a character profile can be the easiest way. I like to find multiple character profiles and combine them so that my profile is even more detailed.
One thing I really think about when it comes to my characters is whether or not they are likeable. Likeability isn’t always important but I think that when it comes to a crime novel there needs to be something that the reader will like about the good guy to keep them reading, or keep them cheering them on. So I tried to think of quirks and unique things about my character that would make readers think their interesting, or funny, or something – anything.
But one big thing is to not make them too likeable. After all you don’t like everything about everyone. There will be one or two things that drive you nuts about that person. So I made sure to add that in too.
I am hoping to do a little bit of writing next. I’m not ready to write the novel but I need to create my town. While I have chosen a location and it is a real town in the US, I want it to be interesting. I need to know how it feels to live in the town, what are the smells? I want to know what the people are like. I think, for me at least, writing will help me figure this out.