Writing Characters

by Meredith Cole

I’m a firm believer that your favorite person in the story should be the your main character. There’s nothing worse than reading a book with a bland main character that the author seems to despise, based on the speed in which they try to shove them off stage and get back to the far more interesting secondary characters.

Don’t get me wrong. Secondary characters can and should be be a lot of fun. They don’t have to carry the weight of the story, so they’re free to be wacky and odd. You can take risks with them. Try out new voices. Give them quirks that would become extremely annoying if you had to spend the whole book with them–but are very entertaining for 20 or so pages.

I had a lot of fun inventing odd characters in my first two books, POSED FOR MURDER and DEAD IN THE WATER. Since both books were set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which is both a wacky hipster neighborhood plus a neighborhood filled with Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Hasidic Jews, Italians, and Poles, I could populate the books with a diverse and interesting cast. Actually, I had to.

Three of my favorite characters from the books were the D’Angelo brothers (my sleuth Lydia’s private eye bosses) and their mother, Mama, who owned an Italian restaurant. Their characters and voices were so clear in my head that they were actually relaxing and fun to write. They both help and hindered Lydia as she attempted to solve crimes, and they always made a scene both fun and full of conflict.

But with the D’Angelo brothers (as well as any of the other eccentric characters in my books), I knew that I couldn’t lose sight of the fact that they were being observed through the eyes of my main character. They had to serve the story and add to it–not just be a distraction. And in the end that’s what made them work.

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