The relationship between writers and their characters takes many forms. Some of my characters irritate me, others entertain, some make me feel cuddly and comfortable, while others I positively loath. And some I love warts and all even my alpha male Detective Superintendent Steve Uckfield, head of the Major Crime Team, with all his disgusting habits. But whatever the relationship between the creator and characters 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 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 plotline all nicely worked out. They have the habit of throwing me right off course even to the extent that often when I thought I knew who ‘done it’, I discover the killer is someone completely different. Do I hear the distant siren of an ambulance approaching?
Thinking about your characters is not the same as thinking about your ‘real’ friends or the people you know because with your characters you are in control, you create their lives. Although, as I said, they can develop a habit of doing something that surprises you. Many writers are familiar with the old adage plot is character and character is plot, which makes it almost impossible to answer the question readers often ask me, what comes first plot or character? The two are inevitably and intrinsically intertwined.
So 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, 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 which I’d prefer.
Pauline Rowson is the author of two thrillers and the contemporary series of mystery novels featuring the flawed and rugged DI Andy Horton set in the Solent area on the South Coast of England. Her crime novels have received critical acclaim in both the UK and the USA and have been hailed as the ‘Best of British Crime Fiction’. They have an International readership and have been translated into several languages including Chinese.
For further information visit Pauline Rowson’s Official Website. You can also follow Pauline Rowson on Twitter. Undercurrent, the ninth in the DI Andy Horton series, was published by Severn House in the UK and Commonwealth in January and will be published in the USA in May 2013.