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Characters in Crime

Tips for creating lawmakers and lawbreakers

Crime writers Catherine Astolfo and Donna Carrick with tips on creating credible sleuths and memorable villains.

Catherine Astolfo.jpeg
"Amateur sleuths aren’t law enforcement and aren’t paid for solving mysteries. Unless you can establish another connection (e.g. their brother-in-law was murdered), give your character a job that will have them cross paths with n’er-do-wells (regularly, for a series). Make their sleuthing plausible by ensuring that employment, routines, or relationships led naturally to their involvement. The skills they use daily should be employed to solve the mystery. For instance, Jessica Fletcher wrote about (and researched) criminals. Spend some of your novel time in your character’s world, connecting the dots to explain how this ordinary person got involved in extraordinary events." 

Catherine Astolfo is the author of The Emily Taylor Mysteries, published by Imajin Books. In 2012, she won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story in Canada. She’s a Past President, current Tor/SO RVP, and Derrick Murdoch Award winner for service to Crime Writers of Canada. Her new novel, Sweet Karoline, will come out in July.

"The most memorable villains in fiction have the power to enter our thoughts and make us feel uncomfortable. Part of that discomfort relies upon our sense that their criminal behaviour could, in fact, be real. When fleshing out an antagonist, I ask myself one question: Can I imagine anyone I’ve encountered committing those crimes in real life? If the answer is yes, then I know I’ve created an antihero who will allow readers to suspend their disbelief. Once readers perceive a human ‘reality’, the villain can more easily claim a place in memory."
Donna Carrick is the author of three mystery novels: The First Excellence: Fa-ling's Map (winner of the 2011 Indie Book Event Award),Gold And Fishes and The Noon God. Her short story anthologies, Sept-Iles and other places and Knowing Penelope, are both available for Kindle. 

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