As I line up a cast of characters with whom I will live for years to come if this new series is a go, I am paying close attention to what seem to be my rules of thumb for a mystery series. I’ve also been slowly reading P D James on the detective novel (Talking About Detective Fiction)and articles/interviews with other crime authors. I’m curious whether we agree on anything. So far it seems we don’t agree on much. I wrote in another post about PD James’s comment that few crime writers age their series characters.
Here’s a comment that surprised me, in an excerpt from a Publishers Weekly interview with Alexander Campion [no relation to my less-murderous alter-ego]: “There’s a trick to writing stock figure books. First off, nobody evolves.” Hang on, hang on, what?! Nobody evolves?!
Brother Michaelo is interesting to me because of the gradual changes in his character. Margaret Kerr matures over the course of her trilogy. Owen changes over time, as do Archbishop Thoresby, Alisoun Ffulford, Jasper de Melton…. I can’t imagine spending years with static characters. How tedious!
That’s not to say Alexander’s wrong. That’s his rule of thumb, and it works for him.
As for me, my characters evolve as I write them. Just this afternoon a character I had envisioned as blandly pleasant smirked on her first appearance. I don’t know how it happened. But when I reread what I’d written (or she’d written?), I realized it was better this way. Yes. She’s a bit irritating. She evolved right before my eyes, beneath my fingertips. I love unruly characters!