This week’s cast of characters started as “extras” on the page – several of them unexpected – but they each played an important role in making my stories more than a standard whodunitandhow. They give the murders a context, and a humanity, that is oft times lacking in the genre.
Ah, the ex who won’t let go…a romance trope I was determined to upend after it showed up unexpectedly in Forty & Out (what? I’m a pantser!). I walked a fine line to keep Jadz’s almost-ex-husband Nathan (Nate) around without turning him into a creepy stalker. And it’s a good thing I did, because (spoiler, just a little!) he showed up again in Burned Bridges, rehabilitated, and with a much larger role. The joys of pantsing! I picture Nate as his namesake, Nathan Fillion. Nice of him to take a role in uniform (The Rookie) after Malcolm (Firefly) and Rick Castle (Castle) so he fits the part. 😉
And then there’s the co-worker crush and all its attendant complications. If I had it to do over again, Jadz would have kept Theo firmly in the friend zone in Forty & Out. Alas, I wasn’t confident enough in my own instincts to totally shun expectations after dealing with Nate. Theo’s a nice guy and all – with the looks of Chris Hemsworth! – but somewhere between that first book and Burned Bridges, I fell hard for Bechdel. Thankfully, my novels are the better for it.
One of the best parts of not being a plotter is the interesting characters I could never imagine who show up on the page. I’m afraid that would never happen with an outline; I’d be too constrained by the plotted points/people. Catherine is one of the pleasant surprises – she literally ambushed Jadz at the door to the police station one afternoon, surprising us both. Catherine brings a street person’s sensibility and quirkiness to show a different side of Jadz, all while helping to solve a murder. Imagine Lily Tomlin at her buzzed Frankie-hippy best.
Another one of those special, unexpected characters in Forty & Out is Samantha Gilbert, an airport baggage handler. A peripheral extra, but Sam plays an important role in helping flesh out a side plot. And I like her frankness.
I never told my long-time writing partner Lori Fetters Lopez that Sam’s physical attributes – and attitude! – were modeled after her. I hope she knew.
Lori was an important part of my personal supporting cast, and after losing her much to soon almost a year ago now, I still miss her terribly. I don’t know that anyone will ever fill the void. I hope you have someone as special in your life – and in your novels.