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Writing crime fiction creates order and gives the author control


Crime writer Pauline RowsonThe relationship between writers and their characters takes many forms. For me some characters I have created are irritating, others entertain me. Some make me feel cuddly and comfortable, while others I positively loath. And some I love, especially my flawed and rugged detective, Andy Horton. I even like my alpha male, Detective Superintendent Steve Uckfield, head of the Major Crime Team, with all his irritating and coarse habits whereas DCI Lorraine Bliss, Andy’s immediate boss, I (and my readers) find a pain in the proverbial.

Silent Running mystery thriller by Pauline RowsonThen there is former Royal Marine Commando Art Marvik now an undercover investigator for the UK Police National Intelligence Marine Squad (NIMS), tough, resourceful, fit, able to operate outside the law if it means he gets the baddie, but troubled by his parents' deaths in 1997 an underwater explosion in the Straits of Malacca and now medically discharged from the Marines trying to adapt to civilian life.

Added to them is my lovely, kind, gentle 1950s detective, Inspector Ryga who made his debut in DEATH IN THE COVE where he teams up on an investigation in Portland, Dorset, with former war photographer Eva Paisley. She also joins him for his second investigation in DEATH IN THE HARBOUR (Nov. 2020) set in Newhaven, East Sussex and for subsequent mysteries.

Whatever the relationship between the creator and characters though it should never be dull.

It’s easy to become a little bit obsessed with your characters. Oh, alright very obsessed and more so when writing a series because the main cast of characters are with me all the time, they are as much part of my life as real people, they occupy my thoughts throughout the day, but strangely enough I never dream of them. Perhaps there is some hope for me yet and I’m not about to be carted off to the insane asylum.

I think about my characters a great deal. Where are they? What will they do next?  How will they react to this or that situation?  What is happening in their private lives as well as in the job?  What is their relationship with their colleagues? This is all good stuff because their actions, feelings and motivations drive the plot, which can be annoying especially if I think I’ve got the plot line all nicely worked out. They can have the habit of taking me right off track even to the extent that often I thought I know who ‘done it’, why and how, only to discover the killer is someone completely different. Do I hear the distant siren of an ambulance approaching?


A Deadly Wake, DI Andy Horton by Pauline RowsonThinking about your characters is not the same as thinking about your ‘real’ friends or the people you know because with your characters you are creating their lives, although they do often have a habit of doing something that surprises you. Marvik is not bound by the law or police procedure so he can push the boundaries. But Andy also frequently operates outside the law, much to the annoyance of DCI Lorraine Bliss.  In ‘real life’ Andy would probably either have been promoted or kicked out of the police force by now! But, hey, this is fiction.

With Inspector Ryga I am deep in the world of 1950s England where austerity and rationing are still very much the order of life.  It is a completely different world to today with no mobile phones, no computers, no Internet and no dashing about.  Police officers did not always have cars, in fact often they travelled by public transport and bicycles.  The research is fascinating and I enjoy it and mingling it in the stories.

Quite often (especially in difficult times - as I update this article we are in the grip of a worldwide pandemic (Covid-19)) I love to escape with my characters to my fictional world. Here I can create order out of chaos and I have control.  But before you call for the men in white coats I assure you I am quite sane, well as sane as any writer (and especially a crime writer can be – after all we kill people for a living).

Creating characters and their lives is a fascinating game, as many children know from their play, and perhaps that's what a lot of us writers are - kids at heart. It’s either that or we’re closet villains or psychopaths. I know what I prefer, I leave you to make up your own mind.

Originally published in 2017, updated 2020.


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POSTED BY: PAULINE ROWSON
SEPTEMBER 23RD, 2020 @ 5:00:12 BST
 
 


Comments

RE: Writing crime fiction creates order and gives the author control


Glad to hear it Lindsey, the word count increase that is. I`ll hold back on the men in white coats for now. They`ll probably be busy carting me off anyway!

COMMENT BY PAULINE ROWSON, FEBRUARY 3RD, 2018 @ 15:46:35 GMT

RE: Writing crime fiction creates order and gives the author control


Please don`t send the men round with the white coats that have those kinky straps attached because I really do dream of my characters.Not all the time but when I do my word count increases significantly.

COMMENT BY LINDSEY RUSSELL, FEBRUARY 3RD, 2018 @ 1:07:57 GMT
 

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