If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our April author interviews: Perennial author Susan Wittig Albert--4/5, Sasscer Hill, horse racing insider--4/12, English historical, cozy author, TE Kinsey--4/19, Debut author, Susan Bickford--4/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in April: Heather Baker Weidner (4/1), Christina Hoag (4/8), Susan Boles (4/29). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 4/15--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 4/22--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th. In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Changes for Your Protagonist By Lesley A. Diehl, author of the Eve Appel Mysteries



How radically can a writer change the protagonist in a mystery series? Short of killing off the protagonist—probably not recommended unless you intend to end the series—how much can a writer reasonably get away with in respect to events in the life of a main character? And is it possible to tinker with the personality of the character without betraying either the character or dismaying and disappointing the reader?

Here are five issues I considered when deciding to take my protagonist in new directions:

1 .   Have I built my protagonist into such an iconic character that she doesn’t need to change?
For most writers this isn’t an issue. Few of us have created characters that stand like impenetrable rocks not needing to reconsider their lives or their loves. Robert  Parker’s Spenser is one who we do not expect to alter his manner of dealing with the bad guys nor waver in his love for Susan and his friendship with Hawk. As readers, we’d probably be disappointed to see any other Spenser on the page. We know what to expect, and we haven’t been disappointed.

2.    How can I change my protagonist without undermining the character I’ve already built?
The groundwork for change needs to be laid so that it emerges organically from what we already know about our character. For example, has our amateur sleuth not only been chasing the bad guys, but has she also yearned for love and family life? Readers wouldn’t be disappointed if we wrote an enduring love interest into the book and then had her marry. Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles meets the love of her life, a Texas Ranger, they marry, and she becomes mother to his son. Later they become parents to a long lost brother’s child. All of these alterations in China’s life represent adjustments she must make to how she lives her life, but these adjustments seem to emerge quite naturally from the person we know, and readers are eager to see where this life now takes her.

3.    I’ve set my character on a path, now what?
If the path has been carefully considered, then I now have an arc of development for my protagonist for the next few chapters in her life. She has become a fuller, deeper more compassionate character, someone I know my reader will enjoy seeing in her new life. Since change usually involves the emergence of relationship complexity and often the development of another character who the protagonist now has a changed relationship with, the writer has the opportunity to develop a character not only integral to the protagonist’s life, but also one who may figure into plot and subplot issues. In the second book of Eve Appel Murder Mysteries, I introduced a wise, elderly Miccosukee Indian I refer to Grandfather. He becomes one of Eve’s best friends, someone she can go to for advice and someone who shares her passion for taking down the bad guys. In Dead in the Water, the two concoct a plan for outing some Russian thugs. I’ve accomplished two things with Grandfather: his inclusion in those Eve comes to trust shows her capacity for extending her love beyond people she already knows, and the reader sees impulsive Eve now reach out for help in her sleuthing schemes. Not only do I have a new character for readers to enjoy, but I have used him to broaden and change my protagonist. I can build future changes upon this.

4.   What shouldn’t I do with changes I’ve introduced?
One of my favorite writers married her protagonist several books back in the series. While her choice of the man to marry was unexpected, her decision to share her life with someone was not. In the subsequent book, the husband appears, but as a subordinate and not very important character. In the several books since then, the husband is missing and only a few lines of thought by the protagonist are given to him. I still enjoy the series, but now I wonder what I should think about the protagonist. Mostly, I wonder why the writer introduced this change if she had no intention of making it an integral part of the protagonist’s journey and development. Why leave on the table such a rich life change which could be used so effectively in revealing more of the protagonist and in creating new and interesting plot lines? Ironically, I keep reading the series in hopes I’ll find out the answer.
 
5.   Can I use shocking, unanticipated changes in my protagonist’s life?
By killing off Thomas Lynley’s wife, Helen, so unexpectedly, Elizabeth George certainly did. With this surprising death, she set herself up to write a novel about Helen’s killer, and she set Lynley off on a journey he would never have taken as he grieved for his wife and slowly came back to his work. It also allowed George to put more emphasis upon Barbara Havers, Lynley’s sometime a partner. I say surprising your readers with this kind of shock is courageous, but it may also be foolish if you lose your readers. It appears George didn’t suffer the loss of too many fans, although many were furious about the death. I don’t think I could pull this one off. Can you?

You probably can add other issue to consider when taking your series protagonist through new events in her life and relationships. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Bio:
Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in Upstate New York.  In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport.  Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse.  When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.

She is the author of a number of mystery series and mysteries as well as short stories.  Mud Bog Murder follows the first three books in the Eve Appel mystery series, A Secondhand Murder, Dead in the Water and A Sporting Murder.      

Visit her on her website:  www.lesleyadiehl.com

6 comments:

Jim Jackson said...

I’m with you, Lesley: why marry the main character and then have the love of her life disappear from the storyline? I’m happy to have protagonists change, even make major changes as long as they are set up well.

Gloria Alden said...

Lesley, that seems strange, too, that the husband who should have become an important character has more or less disappeared. In my series, my main character met who would eventually become her husband, but it took until the 7th book for them to become engaged. And then something happens to create a problem for them in the current book when her grandmother moves in with them putting a damper on their alone time. They won't be getting married anytime soon at least until his teenage son goes off to college. I've had my characters change as the series progress, and even more I add new characters, who my readers like, who make changes as the books progress. In the beginning I wondered how I'd handle it if my two main characters married, but then I see that Katherine Hall Page has managed so I know I'll be able to do that, too, when they do get married.

I have to admit although I was upset by George's murdering Helen, Barbara Havers is one of my favorite characters.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I was sick of Helen, though horrified that she and her unborn child were killed. Barbara Havers is the most interesting character in George's books; I never tire of reading her internal and external dialogue. And her clothes...too much.

Shari Randall said...

We're all Barbara Havers fans!
I wonder if authors take these turns to generate buzz? Every time a favorite character gets killed on a show like Game of Thrones the Internet is abuzz. Same with books - we all were horrified by Helen's death, even if we didn't like her.

KM Rockwood said...

I think man series have a "series arc," in which the protagonist develops and changes.

Killing off beloved (or at least well known) characters is certainly a way to encourage interest and involvement from fans.

Kait said...

Hi Leslie, I am in the midst of that as well, my character is changing careers and direction. It's a tough choice and it requires lots of planning to make it work. I thought Elizabeth George was SO brave, and it was a fantastic book!