When a Character Shows His True Colors

It’s been a busy month and I’m so excited to say I’ve finished the first draft of the fifth Countess of Harleigh mystery! I’m a plotter and an outliner, so I do quite a bit of work before I ever start writing the book. I’ve plotted the crime. I know “who done it” and who my suspects will be, how the investigation will proceed and who my characters are—or so I think. While all of these elements are subject to change, it’s that last part that so often changes when I actually begin writing the story. Characters I thought I knew—I did create them after all—often reveal themselves as someone completely different once they take up their roles in the story.

This time it was Frances’ father, Franklin Price. I’d anticipated him taking an active part in the investigation, yet every time I gave him an assignment, he performed it with a complete lack of interest. What? Franklin is not a lackluster character, but when doing something productive, he was clearly just going through the motions. Several chapters in, I realized that behind my back, he was taking shortcuts to justice. Much to Frances’ surprise, and mine, he tried to bribe an officer of the Metropolitan Police on more than one occasion.

This was NOT the man I created!

Yet I found him very interesting—much more so than when I was forcing him to act like my idea of Frances’ father. So, I decided to go with it and let him be the privileged scofflaw he wanted to be, and I had so much more fun with his character. I’ll have to go back and revise the beginning chapters—maybe bring in another character to pick up those assignments that Franklin blew off—but I always knew I’d be revising anyway.

In a recent virtual event, someone asked how much I know my characters before I start writing. The answer is, I think I know them very well, but I often discover something new about them in the first draft. It’s like the old saying; you never really know someone until you live with them!

In other news, it’s Agatha Christie’s birthday today! Coincidentally, it’s also Cozy Mystery Day. Do you have a favorite Christie novel? Next Tuesday, I’ll be part of a multi-author Facebook page hop and I may be giving away a couple of my favorite Christie novels–in addition to the Grand Prize of each author’s first in series book! Check us out!

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