Unforgettable Characters

During the month of May, several authors have been invited to help kick off my mystery-trivia book tour. Today my guest is mystery writer, Wendy Gager. Read what Wendy has to say about the importance of character in a novel. Wendy writes the Mitch Malone series. A Case of Volatile Deeds will be out this fall. Welcome, Wendy.

Books must have good plots, great characters and a unique setting to propel readers to buy the next book, but which of these is most important? For me, a setting or plot is immaterial without memorable characters. Especially in a mystery, characters drive the action and in the quest to find the murderer it is all about inner flaws, hidden agendas, and masked evil.
            Think about your favorite book. Who immediately comes to mind? The characters, not the setting or plot. To demonstrate, look at the Harry Potter series that is heavily plot driven. What did you think of? Or should I say who? Did Harry, Hermoine and Ron pop up in three D? Or maybe the villainous Snape or Voldemort? The magical quests or the phenomenal wizarding worlds created are important to the story but not the first thing. Would these seven books have captured the attention of billions had they not had great characters like an orphan with abusive guardians, a middle child lost in a sea of siblings, or a bookworm ostracized by her intelligence? Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest, and the Burrow are great settings but lose their meaning without the characters. The plot is nothing but good triumphing over evil. Granted they are both told in great detail and skill but the characters steal the show with their personalities.
            In the mystery genre think about the master of mystery, Agatha Christie. Naming several of her books is easy. However, it isn’t the setting but who the sleuth was. Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot come to mind immediately. Their foibles like Hercule’s fastidiousness or Miss Marple’s spinsterhood aren’t easily forgotten. They made great sleuths because of their character traits of observation and intellect.
            Characters in my mind are much more important than setting or plot. When someone asks about a favorite book, you don’t say “I loved the scene where the car tipped over.” Instead you say I loved Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind” because his last line was perfect. Or, I get annoyed with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum because she can’t make a decision on who she is going to marry. Characters carry the show. Make them memorable and readers will clamor for the next book.

W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him. “A Case of Hometown Blues” was released this summer when Mitch returns to where he grew up only to have his high school crush killed after he drops her off at home in the early hours of the morning. “A Case of Volatile Deeds” will be out this fall and Mitch must figure out who killed his date in an explosion.

Join me tomorrow for Kaye George who also writes about The Importance of Character Development.

My three mystery trivia books have been updated and reissued by LL-PublicationsThe Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz BookThe Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. Post a comment on my blog by June 1, and your name will be entered in a drawing for one of my trivia books. Three names will be drawn, one for each book.