I’ve said it often so you probably know I’m a pantser.
My process is messy but I’ve written ten books using it: four NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mysteries, four romances, an award winning general fiction, and Love Among the Ruins, a romance that will be published in June.
Now I’m writing my fifth Corelli and Parker mystery and my process isn’t working.
Usually the characters and the issue I want to explore in the book come to me while I’m writing and I write as much as I know and fill in the holes when I rewrite the first draft. This time, however, I had an idea about the issue and the murder victim so I started doing background research while I was writing the soon to be published romance.
I knew who I was going to kill
I started with a blank screen, as usual, and I wrote about seven thousand words introducing new readers to Detectives Corelli and Parker and bringing series readers up to date on them and their relationship. Then I wrote the murder scene, a bloody one. It didn’t feel right but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Nor could I figure out where to go next.
I was stuck
So I decided I needed to know more about this person and I began to, gasp, develop the character by doing the following things which, usually, I might or might not do later in the process.
- Drew a detailed map of the victim’s home.
- Developed the character of the victim.
- Wrote diary entries for the victim.
- Identified potential suspects and their secrets.
- Did more character research.
- Mapped out the contradictory aspects of the character personality. I’ve used this technique from Paula Munier’s book, Plot Perfect, before to strengthen a character but not before I already knew who the character was.
- Listed the important series characters, what’s happening for them now, and their potential subplots based on events in the previous books.
The more I learned about the character the more attached I became. And I finally understood. The character doesn’t want to die.
Now I’m thinking about a different victim.
What about you? Do your characters ever take charge?
In addition to publishing multiple mystery and romance short stories in various anthologies, Catherine has authored four romances novels. Her latest book, The Disappearance of Lindy James, was awarded a GOLDIE for Best General Fiction.