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How to develop characters in a crime novel

Creating a likeable, interesting and complex main character, one the reader can have empathy with, one they want to trust, feel his/her pain and disappointments, root for throughout the story is the key to creating a riveting read and a successful crime series. But it's not just the main character it's also the supporting cast, the villains and the walk-on parts who all need characteristics that are believable even if they are eccentric. The cast must be real to the writer and therefore real to the reader.

"Ms. Rowson's characters are always well-defined and individual people. "Death in the Nets" is another satisfying read, and I look forward to the next in the series."Amazon Customer on Inspector Ryga Mystery (3)

Creating characters using spidergrams I develop my characters using spider grams. I draw a circle and put each character in the centre of that circle and then I throw out lines and ask a series of ‘open’ questions about each of them. For example, if I have the victim in the circle then I’d ask questions such as who is he? How did he get where he is? Why would someone want to kill him? Who killed him? How was he killed? What’s his background, family, education, experience? What’s his occupation? How old is he? Where does he live? What’s his personality? What does he look like? What has shaped him? How are the victim’s family, friends and others going to react? How do they see this character? What’s my main character going to do next?

I draw up character profiles for each of the main and secondary characters, some might be sketchier than others. But that doesn’t matter because it isn’t until I start putting dialogue into their mouths and have them walking around and interacting with people that they come alive. Until then they are just notes on a piece of paper. But those notes can be added to as my characters start to take shape through my writing.

The characters’ actions drive the plot. The surprises, twists and turns all spring from the characters' motivations and as I write I find ideas occurring to me that I hadn’t previously considered. I sometimes discover that someone I thought was going to be a minor character turns out to be much more interesting when I write his part, and a major character becomes boring and sometimes unnecessary, if that happens then I cut him out.

As I write I continually ask myself questions. What will this character do in this situation? What will he/she do next? I throw out more lines around that spider gram. I shape and reshape the characters. I put them in difficult or unusual situations, and as I do so the story unfolds and the tension builds.

The gripping Inspector Ryga Mysteries by Pauline Rowson"What I like about the Inspector Ryga books (this is #3 -- don't start here if you want the full effect of the character), besides his dogged investigative skills, is how the author uses the circumstances of his past to define what is going on in his present. The horrors of imprisonment and the effects of that is something that Ryga is working through, and we see it throughout the book."

Pauline Rowson's gripping, entertaining crime novels full of twists and turns

Pauline Rowson's crime novels
If you enjoy reading gripping, fast-paced crime novels full of twists and turns, compelling and multi-layered with great characters and stories that keep you guessing right to the end then Pauline Rowson's crime novels are right up your street.

Set against the back drop of the ever changing sea on the South Coast of England.

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JANUARY 20TH, 2022 @ 6:33:54 GMT


RE: How to develop characters in a crime novel

Hi Pauline,
I like the concept of a circle. I agree that things change as the story moves forward.
Richard Brawer


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