I have previously mentioned that I’m an avid fan of mystery and suspense books, and that I read extensively within the genre. It has been said that mystery and suspense novels are often plot-driven, at the expense of characterization.
In many ways, this is legitimate. By its very nature, the mystery and suspense genre must be plot-driven. There is a crime or puzzle to be solved. The action is usually fast paced, with a climatic end and resolution. Unfortunately, along the way, the characters can become wooden. The investigator becomes a standard FBI agent/police officer/private investigator; the bad guy is typically evil and everyone else are side characters that pop in and out as needed.
I contend that writing a fast paced thriller does not mean characterization needs to suffer. Why can’t writers do both? Here are my four keys to a better character:
I am going to write an individual blog post for each point in the coming weeks. However, as an introduction, here are some ideas to get you thinking about this topic.
Observe people around you. Observe their speech, actions, and non-verbal communication. Notice how everyone is different? Think about why. Why does one person laugh at a situation or joke, while another does not? Why does one person choose to talk where another might choose to listen? How is it that one person can convey so much through silence?
Characterization is not just about creating a protagonist who must solve the crime, or describing physical features. It is a deeper process of creating someone who is real, with fears, dreams, a past, a future, failings, and successes.
How do you create characters when you write?