Tag Archives: description

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The Secrets Behind Creating a Memorable Detective Character

Hello Writer Bees!

At the center of any great murder mystery is a great detective. Whether they are an amateur sleuth, a private inspector or a member of law enforcement, this is the character, or team, that is the heart of any whodunit. Let’s talk about the behind the scenes secrets to creating a detective character.

Be Inspired By Classic Detectives

Buster Keaton in Sherlock Junior (1924)

Before you dive right into character creation, consider the fictional detectives from classic murder mysteries. Right off the bat, we think of notable inspectors like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Of course, there are many more sleuths in detective fiction, explore and read as much as you can. Diversity is crucial in this research. Once you’ve read a bunch of different mysteries, focus in on a few characters. What stands out with them? What about them catches your attention as a reader? Really think about makes those characters memorable. Be inspired by the characters and artists that came before you. Then, put your own twist on the conventional detective and be original.

What’s in a Name?

You gotta admit, some detectives out have some pretty unique names. The kind of names that turn heads, and draw people in. No, this does not mean you must frivolously choose the most ridiculous name you can think of. Be mindful about the character’s name. Feel free to play around with uncommon names. Ever heard of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson? There’s a reason those names stick in our minds.

Image result for poirot gif

If you are a loyal follower of the Lady Jabberwocky blog, you’ll know that I am currently deliberating over names for my detective. I’m considering where he is from and what sounds easy on the ears. Since he will be the main character, his name must resonate the reader in some way.

Method to the Madness

Image result for detective poirot order quote method

Next, let’s talk about method, how the detective works. Do they use brute force and bust heads to gather information? Or do they inspect for clues with a magnifying class? Or is there a special ability at work? Whatever the case, there must be a rhyme and reason to every action during their investigation. However, it’s more than just method. It’s how they navigate the world and how they interact with other people. What’s their relationship with their sidekick? How do they interrogate suspects? Really take a walk in their shoes.

The Need to Investigate

Not only should you consider how they investigate, but why they investigate. Why are they inspectors? Why does the detective solve cases? Behind every sleuth lies their motivation, the drive that compels them to unravel mysteries. Are whodunits just big puzzles for them? Or do they have a high moral values? Or are they personally connected to the crime in some way? Explore the reason why your character is in this business, or at least in a position to investigate and find the culprit.

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Plus, this would be a good time to think about a catchphrase. A bit cheesy but some characters do well with a tagline. For my main character, he lives by the idea that “Life should end in a period, not a question mark.” A personal philosophy like this one can highlight one’s motive and goal, and help the reader understand the character better.

Quirks and Odd Habits

It’s those little idiosyncrasies that make a character realistic. Detectives should be eccentric, odd balls. They should have quirks and peculiar traits, like something is a little off about them. Yes, Poirot is a genius, but what makes him memorable is his need for order and precision. Does your inspector have any odd habits when in thought? If you think about it, we all have our strange quirks. For this character, dial those traits up a notch, to be extra weird and interesting. Frankly, they should be borderline alien.

Image result for columbo gif

Wrapping Up May Of Mystery

When creating a sleuth, every decision must be a conscious, specific one. Be mindful of their name, how they work, and what odd traits define them. Think of a detective as another breed of fictional character. Trust me, the world does not need more carbon copies of Holmes.

The case is officially closed. With this post, May of Mystery comes to an end. It really was a fun month, writer bees. Hope you all learned something about detective fiction. What genre themed month should I do next? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Also, I just want to take a minute to proclaim my undying appreciation for my first patron, Mister Michael from NY. I love you to the moon and back. Check out my Patreon and help support me and this blog. Every little bit helps. Thanks everyone!

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

The 3 Types of Evidence and Mistakes to Avoid When Dropping Clues

Hello writer bugs!

Get your magnifying glasses ready, cause we are hitting the pavement and looking at clues for your next murder mystery. What’s a whodunit without some hard hitting evidence? First, let’s talk about the three types of clues that are involved in a typical mystery.

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Physical Evidence

Probably the most likely of evidence, these are the tangible clues. Something left behind at the scene of a crime? Or a blood stained murder weapon? Or even a piece of DNA, like hair or fingerprints? These are the clues the detective can touch, hold and smell. The kind of evidence they can physically interact with.

Thematic Evidence

As writers, we often throw readers a bone in the form of hints. While a bit cliché, tense situation tend to happen during stormy nights. Villains often wear dark colors. As the audience progresses through the story, they sense those little nuances you establish. Like the story itself is holding up signs in the background.

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Verbal Evidence

Not only is who said what important, but what is not being said. Body language and social cues come into play. What is the tone of a suspect’s voice? What is said in an argument or a secret whisper? How do they react during a murder investigation. Sometimes, mysteries become a game of questions and answers.

Mistakes to Avoid

So planting clues can be tricky. You don’t want them to be obvious with a big neon sign, nor do you want then to be completely hidden. Finding the right balance is critical. Here are some pitfalls to steer away from.

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The Overused to DeathThe hackneyed clues that are so overdone, they’re never taken seriously. Accidently revealing secrets, victims writing their last message in a pool of blood.
The Overcomplicated Clues written in some bizarre code never fly too well. Evidence that requires something to be deciphered take up a lot of time. Also, their highly unrealistic. A murder mystery isn’t exactly an escape room. What criminal takes the time to leave his plans in Morse code?
The Obscure Trivial Pursuit Consider what is common knowledge for the average reader. Obscure trivia can be a hindrance. Be sure to give the proper information behind the evidence.
The Obvious LiesA detective cannot lie to it’s audience. In the midst on an investigation, an object can not be one thing, then mistaken for something else. Detective’s must be forthcoming.

Hope this helps you guys in your mystery writing pursuits. Be sure to check out this week’s prompt as well as the post on Ronald Knox’s Rules of Detective Fiction. Have a lovely weekend, amateur sleuths!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Meet the Detective and His Assistant:(Excerpt From My WIP Mystery Novel)

Up the claustrophobic staircase, I opened the door to the recluse’s apartment. On the frosted window glass read the name Private Detective H.B. Cooper. There he was, sitting at his desk, slouched in his leather chair. His light chestnut hair was streaked with silver. Hazel eyes hid under two thick eyebrows. “You’re late.” He muttered, polishing the brass handle of his walking stick. His accent was distinct, a proper English accent, he would call it.

“Good morning to you too, old man.” Rolling my eyes, I placed the mug of coffee and his newspaper on the desk. A glass vase holding a bouquet of daisies was placed on the kitchen counter. “Secret admirer sent you flowers?”

“Hardly,” He scoffed.  “A token of gratitude from out last client.” While reading the front page story, he commented on his previous case. “You think finding a scribbled message about how cruel the world is and what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the temple is enough to prove a man killed himself?”

“Usually.” Placing the vase in the sink, I poured some water for those dehydrated flowers. “You’re in the paper, by the way.”

His wrinkled face pinched into a scowl. “As If I care for such trivial commentary.”

His modest apartment was more of an office than a home. The room centered around a Cherrywood desk. There were no pictures of loved ones, if he had any. No heirlooms to remind him of his homeland, London. Just an overflow of books that spilled from the bookshelf onto the coffee table and the floor. A condensed library, with many books on many different subjects. Too many books for one man, if you ask me.

In front of the pea green sofa was a coffee table with a typewriter sitting among scattered notes and files. Consider that my desk. There was a cramp kitchen area and a bedroom door I had never entered.

While being employed by the detective, I became a jack-of-all-trades. I was his caretaker, his assistant, the royal note taker and the feeder of the cat. In one of the cabinets were cans of cat food. Peeling back the metal lid, I set the tin of stinking fish mince on the floor. No cat in sight. “Merlin is outside,” He pointed out before he took a sip from the steaming cup of coffee. A grimace of displeasure came across his face “This tastes bloody dreadful.” Every morning, the coffee is deemed dreadful.

“You gotta be kidding me?” I climbed out the window onto the paint chipped fire escape. Orange rust clung to the metal. The black cat stood precariously on the railing, tail swishing without care. His muzzle pointed to the sky, whiskers testing wind conditions. I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, earning a meow of displeasure. “Y’know, one day, that cat of yours is going to fall and get flattened.” I nodded towards the streets where car horns were blaring.

Crouching back in the window, I dropped the cat into Mr. Cooper’s lap. He was engrossed in the newspaper. From the fire escape, I caught a glimpse of the parachute jump and a thin blue line of the ocean. It’s nice to wake up every morning to a clump of seaweed in your nostrils.

At the time, I had been working for Mr. Cooper for about a year. He was an odd egg, but boy, was he sharp. He had a sort of humble, unexpected kind of brilliance. In a hidden notebook, I kept record of facts of the detective. Mr. Cooper was a vault of information. A man who solved mysteries for a living was a walking mystery himself.


This is an excerpt from myWIP Mystery/Detective story, introducing my two main characters. Thought it was a good way to kick off May of Mystery. Let me know what you guys think in the comments!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

How to Write About Fictional Foods and Feasts

Food, in any story, is almost unavoidable.

Whether your characters are cooking a traditional meal from their culture, or grabbing a bite to eat, food can become a memorable part of a scene.

Personally, I love when I get the chance to write about food, because of how descriptive you can be when talking about a meal. And its those small details that bring a story, and it’s characters, to life. Take a line from my WIP as an example: “I was rewarded with freshly baked bread topped with minced garlic and a generous drizzle of olive oil.” Got your mouth watering already, right? It’s the little sentences like that will hook reader’s attention in a snap.

No, you don’t have to sound like a menu when talking about what’s on the plate. However, plugging in descriptive details will enrich your story and build a realistic, clear image for your characters, and your readers.

Preparation

  • Boiled
  • Broiled
  • Fried
  • Baked
  • Roasted
  • Steamed

Taste and Flavor

  • Sweet, Sugary, Salty
  • Juicy, Fresh, Tart
  • Bitter, Sharp, Sour, Acrid
  • Refreshing, Rich,
  • Smokey, Fiery, Zesty, Vinegary

Texture

  • Crispy, Crunchy, Greasy, Oily
  • Charred, Sticky, Soft, Doughy
  • Mushy, Slimy, Luscious, Dry, Airy
  • Melted, Stringy, Tough, Ooey-Gooey
  • Ripe, Rotten, Chilled, Piping Hot

Rapid Fire Tips

  • If your writing about a cuisine from a culture that’s not your own, do the research. You’ll want to be accurate with the information from another heritage.
  • Writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Be creative with inventing delicacies that tie into your setting. Consider incorporating holidays that center around a certain meal. What does Thanksgiving look like on Pluto? You tell me.
  • When the story takes place in another time period, think about what food was common back then and how it was prepared.

Throw away vague words like “delicious” and give your readers something to chew on. What are some food related moments from your favorite stories? Does your WIP have a line regarding a good meal? Talk to me in the comments! Have a great weekend you guys. Right now, I’m off to an escape room.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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Tips and Tricks for Writing Character Descriptions

Because I got such positive feedback and interest from my post about writing Setting Descriptions, I decided to dedicate a post to writing character descriptions. For me, asking myself questions about how something looks helps me write more descriptively.

By popular demand, here are some tips on writing character descriptions.  Below, there are some questions that may jog you brain.

A Face Only a Writer Could Love

Eyes are the window to a person’s soul, right? What do their eyes say about them?

What shape is the nose? Bulbous? small and turned upward?

Open up. How are those teeth looking? Pearly white? Stained? Missing tooth?

What about those kissable lips? Plump or thin lips?

Any facial hair?

How does the hair look? Long or short? Wavy, curly, or straight?

Think about specific hair color. There are many different shades of hair color. Not every blonde or ginger has the same tint.

Talking Body

How would you describe their frame/build?

Skinny arms or big muscles? Tall or short? Lean or chubby?

How do they dress and present themselves to the world?

What does their social standing say about what they wear?

What’s their skin tone? Do they have tattoos?

Any freckles? Birthmarks? Scars? Moles?

Other Traits

How do they laugh? Is it a small giggle or an obnoxious cackle?

What does their voice sound like? Deep baritone or high squeaky voice?

How do they walk? Are they dragging their feet? Taking confident strides? Have a limp?

Extra Tips

Think about how emotion effects speech and appearance. Consider how the character is feeling that would alter their appearance. For example, if a girl is going through a breakup, her voice may be quivering, her hair might be thrown in a messy bun, maybe wearing cozy sweatpants.

No need for say exact height and weight. I’ve notice this while beta reading.  I don’t really think the reader needs precise measurements.

Keep an eye out for people walking around your life. How would you describe them? What about their appearance stands out? I’m not suggesting to stalk or stare awkwardly at someone, just to be aware of people around you. (I used to do this while commuting on the subway.) Also, look at yourself in the mirror and think about how you would describe yourself to someone else.

Don’t word vomit a full description of a character when they are first introduced. Seriously. You can give a couple of key features right off the bat, so the reader has a first impression of this character. But, don’t forget to weave character details throughout the scene so it’s not one lump of a description.


What helps you write character descriptions? Let me know in the comments! And if your participating in NaNoWriMo this year, be sure to check out my Ultimate NaNoWriMo Survival Guide!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky