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Monday, March 2, 2015

Sneaky Characters by Paty Jager #cozymystery #writing

When I started writing mysteries I told myself I'd be more disciplined and make sure I knew all the red herring characters and the murderer. I didn't want to have a mystery that went off on different paths. I wanted to make sure I stayed on a logical trajectory.

Knowing I wanted a logical path while creating the story, I made a character chart. By listing my murder victim and all the possible killers and their motives on a chart it would help me introduce the characters to the story and using their motives make the reader and sleuths think they've found the killer only to find a reason they didn't or a stronger motive in another character.

This is the chart I made for the first mystery, Double Duplicity.
Red Herrings

Paula Doring, owner of the Dowing Art Gallery

Ted Norton,  owner of Dimensions Gallery

Paula had just wooed his second best client to her gallery and it wasn’t the first time.

Naomi Norton, Ted’s wife and co-owner of Dimensions Gallery
Believed Paula had something to do with her sister’s suicide
(sister was in love with Oscar Rowan)

Shandra sees Naomi leaving the area.

Oscar Rowan, disgruntled Artist
He was sleeping with Paula with hopes of being her featured artist at the summer event. It is his statue’s spear that is the weapon

Sidney Doring, soon to be ex-husband, part owner of Huckleberry Lodge
He was furious with her affairs and the stipulations in the divorce papers. Killing her saves him money and a messy legal battle.

Juan Lida, Paula’s assistant
Jealous type, knew of her conquests but she promised once the divorce was final she’d bring him on as an equal partner.

If you've read Double Duplicity you know that some of the motives changed as I wrote the book and the person I picked to be the killer changed. The murderer ended up being a character that was added to the book as I wrote it.

So the second book I told myself I would make sure I stuck to my chart.

I didn't.

As the story progressed it made more sense to make the killer be someone other than the person I picked in the beginning.

Same with book three that I am just about finished writing. I was so carefully picking my red herrings, the why's of the character's motives, and again, the murderer has turned out to be someone different.

I've deduced that what happens is; as the story unfolds and subplots and character traits are revealed the motives and the reasons for the characters to act the way they do doesn't always gel with what I started out with. But that's the fun of writing. The characters come to life and the next thing I know they are behaving differently than I'd anticipated.

I'm sure I'm not the only writer who has sneaky characters. And I'm sure there have been books where the reader has thought the character would act one way then realized when the character didn't that it was set up that way, but they hadn't noticed until that one act.

Writing into the Sunset


Sarah Raplee said...

I have had sneaky characters change their roles over the course of a book. As you said, it makes for a fun time writing!

I loved Double Duplicity just the way you wrote it, Paty! Those sneaky characters knew what they were up to!

Judith Ashley said...

An excellent description of how a basically organic writer plots.

Diana McCollum said...

Ah-h, and we writers think we're in control! Not! my characters are always switching things up, going in a different direction etc. Great blog post!

Paty Jager said...

Sarah, I'm glad I'm not the only one to have sneaky characters. Thank you, I'm glad you liked Double Duplicity!

Judith, Thanks! I started as a seat of the pants writer, moved to a plantser, and now I have a few charts and such but as you can see it still doesn't keep me on track. But I rarely write myself into a corner.

Diana, Doesn't having sneaky characters make writing so much more fun? Thanks for stopping in!

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

LOL, Paty! I'm a detailed plotter and have databases of characters, clues, motives and more--yet my characters still surprise me. As you said, that's the fun of writing. Enjoyed your post!

Anonymous said...

I also loved Double Duplicity and I have Tarnished Remains but haven't had the chance to read it yet. I better hurry up so it's done by the time you release Book 3.

I think it's great that you allow your characters to intervene. To me plotting is an intellectual exercise where as writing is an emotional/friend/counselor exercise. The plot is someone from the outside trying to determine how and why it happened--like a policeman after the murder or an archaeologist long after the big event. What the writer discovers along the way are all those in-between nuances and that is what makes a great story.

As far as I'm concerned you do it well!

Paty Jager said...

Genene, It's good to know even plotters like yourself veer away from your charts. ;)

Thanks Maggie! I like your analysis. That's so true. Starting a book you don't know everyone well and think they should be here when really they are not at all what or who you thought they were.