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Eugene Meese: Making secondary characters memorable

When it comes to fleshing out characters, this Nova Scotia crime writer urges you to save lots of energy for the little people.

"Think Law & Order—you know, NBC’s long-running “ripped-from-the-headlines” crime drama. Most of its more than 400 episodes began innocuously, with people in set-pieces or walk-and-talks. Until one of them discovered, or became, a body. One of the show’s under-appreciated strengths was that those characters, whose screen time rarely lasted beyond the opening credits, were convincing. Hardly more than sketches, really, but oh, what sketches—drawn with nuance and a fine attention to detail. Detail. That’s the key. Real people wearing, doing and saying real things and, if used as well as they were on L&O, moving the story."

Eugene Meese was a reporter and editor at small dailies from Newfoundland to Alberta before turning to crime writing. He taught newspaper journalism for 25 years at a small university in Nova Scotia. His first novel, A Magpie’s Smile, was a finalist in the 2010 Arthur Ellis Awards. His second, Uncorrected Proof, was released this spring. 

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