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How to create and develop fictional characters

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. In order to do this you need to know their backstory, their motivations and personalities, their strengths and weaknesses and these might only be formed as you write the novel because no matter how many notes you make about your character/s they don't come to life until you:

  • start putting them in different and often trying circumstances
  • have them interacting with other characters
  • put dialogue into their mouths

And 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.

If the cast is real to the writer it will be real to the reader.

For me the formation of the character/s begins with an idea for a crime novel, which can spring from a location, an incident or an overheard conversation. I have three series of crime thriller novels each with a fictional sleuth and each having a regular cast of characters - the DI Andy Horton crime novels, the Art Marvik mystery thrillers and the 1950s set Inspector Ryga mysteries. Each novel within the series contains a new crime to solve so there is a new cast of characters to create.

So how do I create my characters?

Developing characters using spidergrams and mindmapsI use spidergrams (or mind maps as they are sometimes called).

I draw a circle and put each character in the centre of that circle and then throw out lines and ask a series of ‘open’ questions, the who, what, where, why, how and when. By answering these questions the character/s begin to form.

For example, with regards to the victim:

Who is he/she?
How did he/she end up where they were found?
Why would someone want to kill him?
How was he killed?
When was he killed?
Does he/she have any family/friends/enemies?
How will they and others react?
Who killed him? This is often the last question which is answered and I frequently don't know the answer until I am three quarters of the way through writing the novel. Sometimes not even until the end!

Developing characters

The other sort of questions I would also ask about my characters are:

What is their background, family, education, experience, employment?
How old are they?
Where do they live?
What are their personalities and motivations?
What do they look/walk/talk like?
What has shaped them?
What are their biggest fears?
What are their cardinal qualities, strengths and weaknesses?

The answers to these questions will shape their action, their interaction with others, their dialogue and their decisions and will therefore help to drive the plot. As I write the novel I ask myself what will this character do in this situation, I shape and reshape them. I put them in difficult or unusual situations, and as I do the story unfolds, the tension builds and so the plot begins to unfurl.

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. 

Where to buy Pauline Rowson's books

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JANUARY 15TH, 2021 @ 5:48:59 GMT

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