Yesterday saw the release of Graham Smith’s short story ‘Matching the Evidence‘. I feel very privileged to have Graham on the blog today to talk about the creation of characters. Following Graham’s post, you’ll get my review of his latest release.
Graham has been massively pivotal in my life this year, encouraging me to set up the North East Noir at the Bar. In addition to that, his Crime and Publishment course setting me on the road to finally completing my novel.
Congratulations on another job well done, Graham!
Creation of Characters
Creating a character is about so much more than just picturing one face and writing about them. Sure every book has a lead character who more often than not is the narrator or focal point, but unless the book is Robinson Crusoe, you’ve got to think about the support characters. (Even Crusoe had a Man Friday)
These are the colleagues, the lovers, the criminals, the victims, the witnesses and a whole host of other people who are there to populate the story. To give the lead someone to interrogate. Or fall in love with. Or scheme against. Or pursue in a clichéd game of feline and rodent.
How our character interacts with these secondary characters is critical to the story’s success. A faithful sidekick can save the day. An over-bearing boss can haul the hero off the case. A long-suffering wife can walk out.
Every one of these relationships affects the story or character in one way or another, meaning us authors have to plot much more than just the plot. We have to consider each character in their own right and work out how the lead’s behaviour will affect them and their lives.
One of my favourite authors is Craig Russell and in his Lennox series he pulls off a marvellous trick of having cameo appearances from fantastic characters. He gives them no more than three of four pages of the story to themselves – in one case the character only got three lines – but they are scene stealers due to the way his lead Lennox (as if it wasn’t obvious) reacts to and with them. I am such a fan of these “throwaway” (my word not his) characters that I have tried to emulate them in my own writing.
All of the characters in a novel have an agenda. All have hopes, fears and desires. This makes it imperative to never forget, “every character is the hero of their own story.”
Lots of famous leads have support characters who do more than just stand around doing nothing. Some of the best examples are
- Sherlock Holmes had Dr Watson as a sidekick (explaining device) and Moriaty as a nemesis
- Elvis Cole has Jo Pike as a friend who provides muscle as does Myron Bolitar in his friend Winn
- Logan McRae has a co-dependent relationship with the incorrigible DI Roberta Steele
- Bond has Blofeld as a nemesis
- Jack Reacher has … (I’ll stop now before it becomes obvious I haven’t thought this through)
Whenever I introduce a new character; I have to spend a few minutes, or moments if I’m unusually lucky, working out what’s going through their heads. Are they afraid, or angry, or just plain bored? However they’re feeling, I have to depict them in a way that shows their emotions and allows my erstwhile lead DI Harry Evans continue to wreak his own brand of havoc.
Review: ‘Matching the Evidence‘ by Graham Smith.
Although ‘Matching the Evidence‘ is the third in the DI Harry Evans and Major Crimes Team series, don’t worry if this is your first meeting with Harry – ‘Matching the Evidence’, published by Caffeine Nights, can be read as a standalone story.
On the surface, this may look like the Major Crimes Team being punished for their prior bad behaviour and put on crowd control for a football match between Carlisle United and Millwall. However, things aren’t quite as they seem…
As always with Graham Smith’s writing, ‘Matching the Evidence‘ is dark, gritty and packs plenty of punches. There’s a real tension that runs throughout this story and, due to its length, you will want to devour it in one sitting. Not only do you get this brilliant short story but you also get a sneak preview of ‘I Know Your Secret’ – Harry Evans’s next case.
The Harry Evans series tackles a range of modern issues with a real grit and it looks like this cop is one who will be around for years to come.