These are just some of the iconic duos of detective fiction. Where would an inspector be without their trusted companion by their side? Today, I’m talking about the detective’s partner in crime, the “Watson” of a story and what to consider when creating this character.
The Function of the Foil
Opposites attract, right? The purpose of a foil – or a foil character – is to highlight the traits of the main character. Their contrast in personality or appearance reflect and highlight the specific traits and quirks of a protagonist. For example, if the detective is level-headed, maybe their sidekick is impulsive. If the detective is a total genius, maybe their companion is a bit more oblivious. Play around with the duo’s personalities. You might find their differences make them even more compatible as a team.
For the People
Not only does the sidekick serve their detective, they also serve the audience. Usually, the “Watson” is charged with narrating the story, and every step of the investigation. They pull information about the case from the inspector, or from their own observations, and present them to the reader. How to readers find out about clues, suspects and crime scenes? Usually through the narration of the “Watson” type character. As a close ally, the sidekick knows the inspector well. When the main sleuth is hard to read, their companion acts as a bridge between a distant detective and the audience. Through their interactions with the sleuth, the partner keeps the detective human for the readers, and that is such an important role in a mystery plot.
The heart of any mystery is the relationship between the inspector and his companion. Consider the relationship they have. Are they roommates? Lovers? Acquaintances? Have fun with the relationship between the inspector and their companion. Readers want to root for a dynamic duo. Sure, they may not be on the same page all the time. During their sleuthing, morals and consciences will be tested. A little conflict between the two may makes things interesting. Partners balance each other out. Let there be a solid comradery and playful banter. Readers want to see how these two characters play off one another and how they work together. Oftentimes, the sidekick is there for the detective to bounce theories off of. Think about it, Watson is an extension of the detective’s thought process.
At the end of the day, a sleuth’s sidekick can be a valuable addition to any mystery story. Really consider the kind of partner your detective characters need by their side during an investigation.
Who are some of your favorite detective duos in fiction? Lemme know in the comments!
Since we are officially in spooky season, I wanted to dedicate a couple posts this month to horror writing. Horror fiction is intended to frighten the audience senseless. A lot of people love a good scare. As a genre, horror can come in a variety of shades of darkness. Today, I’m breaking down the most notable subgenres of horror fiction.
The gothic horror subgenre is a healthy mix of horror, mystery, death and a little romance. And some would say it’s the true beginning of horror fiction and the jumping off point for other horror subgenres that developed over time. The macabre takes takes center stage in this type of story. Setting plays a key role in gothic horror. The atmosphere must be dark and moody, usually taking place in a castle, religious abbey or haunting estate. The theme of death and love are prevalent in the plot. It’s a dreary, decaying world full of ominous omens and unexplainable events.
Let’s do the monster mash. A true classic in horror genre. Typically, the plot centers around a character(s) encountering a creature. Creatures of the night are either the result of scientific experiments, born from fantastical means, or simply urban legends come alive. Iconic monsters including – but not limited to – werewolves, vampires, mummies, zombies etc. An argument could be made the even gigantic monsters like Godzilla would be included in this horror subgenre. Sometimes in the narrative, there are underlying themes of duality, an internal conflict between good and evil. It’s an interesting battle to explore within characters. Is the monster really a monster at all?
In the paranormal subgenre, it’s all about the fear of the unknown. Evil spirits, wicked witches and demonic entities wreck havoc and chaos in the lives of mere mortals. Ghosts, demons and haunted houses tend to fall under this category. Exorcisms – whether the holy kind or the high-tech ghostbuster kind – occur in paranormal horror. Similar to the Monster horror subgenre, antagonists can have supernatural abilities and there’s usually a struggle between good and evil. However, paranormal creatures are derived from mythical, other-worldly origins. And let’s be honest, the things that go bump in the night are often what scares us the most.
A killer is on the loose! For this horror subgenre, the story focuses on a central killer. The main antagonist can be a supernatural entity or a natural born psycho. Whatever their reason, the killer’s sole mission is to annihilate anyone and everyone they deem a target. With elements of a thriller and/or crime plotline blended in, building suspense is crucial in this kind of story. You want the reader to feel like the killer is breathing down their necks and lurking around every corner. Will the killer be brought to justice in the end? That’s entirely up to the writer. In horror, no one is promised a happy ending.
Send readers into a living nightmare. Throw rationality out the door and turn the mundane into something terrifying. Characters in psychological horror have either fallen into madness or are trapped in extraordinary situations. Surreal imagery or bizarre visions experienced by the protagonist only add to the insanity. For this horror subgenre, the narrative would benefit from a tight viewpoint, not a multi-narrator piece. A single character’s internal conflict can be just as compelling than an external conflict, if written well. Phobias, paranoia and one’s deepest fears are explored in this type of plot. In psychological horror, there’s not overarching monster or antagonist, the real monster is the human mind itself.
Personally, I’m not a fan of excessive gore. However, as a mystery writer, I sometimes must describe a corpse or a crime scene, for the sake of the fictional investigation. A little bit of horror can go a long way in any genre.
What’s your favorite subgenre of horror fiction? And if you are a horror writer yourself, how would you categorize your story? Talk to me in the comments. As always, I love hearing from you.
National Novel Writing Month is just days away! I am both wildly excited and incredibly unprepared. Recently, I was asked to do the NaNoWriMo tag by a longtime follower of this blog. Jai Lyn is this lovely writer and blogger who is always leaving me the sweetest comments. I literally dropped everything to do this tag for her and for you guys!
The rules are simple….
Thank the awesome blogger who tagged you!
Link back to the creator of this tag, Sophie @ Sophie’s Corner.
Feel free to use the NaNoWriMo 20 Questions Tag graphics!
Answer the questions.
Tag some friends who are also doing NaNo this year.
Tell me about your NaNoWriMo project this year! Give me a blurb!
The title is ‘The Case of the Drowned Mermaid’.
Coney Island, New York, 1924. When a sideshow mermaid is found drowned in her tank, can private detective G.W. Barnaby and his associate, Oscar Fitzgerald, find her killer? Or will this case be another unsolved murder?
What’s the genre?
It’s a mystery! No, really, my WIP is in the mystery/detective fiction genre. Hopefully, one day, it will become a proper whodunit. While there is a bit of romance and drama thrown in, The Case of the Drowned Mermaid is a good ol’ murder mystery.
Describe your MC in three words.
Oscar Fitzgerald, my narrator and dapper, young man of the 1920s, is charming, sarcastic and impatient.
Without spoilers, describe your villain in three words.
Perfectionist. Doting. Manipulative.
What is your goal? (the traditional 50K? 20K? 5K? or……. 100K?)
I’m aiming for 20,000(ish) words this November. Really, any amount of words will do. My real goal is to break free of writer’s block. If you want to read more about my untraditional NaNo goals, check out my last post.
Is this your first draft? Second? Third?
Feels like more drafts than I can count. This could be the third or fourth draft. Hard to say. I’ve been working on this project for about 3 years, and it has gone through many evolutions.
Are you starting a new project (or draft), or continuing an existing one?
Nope, I’m continuing an existing WIP. It’s already about 30,000 words in length. I’m hoping to add to that this November.
What is your favourite time to write in the day?
I’m a night owl, writing at night is my favorite time to write. Do I get enough sleep? Absolutely not. But I can’t help if I only get inspired around midnight.
Where are you going to write?
Probably at home. And probably a bit of sneaky writing at my cubicle.
Computer or paper?
The majority of my notes are scribbled onto various sticky notes and notebook paper. When it comes to writing the story, I will be typing my WIP on the computer. I admire those who are handwriting their work. I tip my hat to you.
NaNoWriMo is a huge commitment!! How are you going to make time to write?
I honestly have no idea. I’m gonna try my best to make time. Use every free moment to work on this project. Cross your fingers for me.
Are you going to participate in local or online NaNoWriMo events? (e.g. kick-off parties in your city, write-ins, virtual writing sprints…)
Unfortunately, write-ins are most likely cancelled due to covid. I’m not sure if I’ll participate in a virtual writing event. Don’t think I will, but I am available to be anyone’s buddy on the NaNoWriMo website.
Do you write from beginning to end or skip around?
Oh, I’ve been skipping around this story for a long time. I always try to juggle too many things at once. That has been a struggle for me in the past. I’m learning how to work on one scene at a time.
Planner or pantser? (or plantser?)
Little bit of both, so I guess that makes me a plantser. I have a vague outline I’m trying to stick to while giving myself wiggle room to be creative and wander off the path, if I need to. Best of both worlds, right?
What will be your go-to NaNoWriMo snack?
I LOVE snacking while writing. Potato chips, roasted chickpeas, salsa and tortilla chips, dry cereal, popcorn. Basically, any crunchy or salty treat. I won’t say no to a fat slice on banana bread though.
(Can you tell this is my favorite question?)
Choice of caffeine? (or no caffeine?)
Not much of a caffeine drinker. I know, shocking. A decaf tea is fine for me.
Any rewards for milestone achievements? For finishing NaNoWriMo?
If I reach my goal of 20k, or any significant word count goal, I plan to spoil myself with NaNoWriMo swag. I’ve never set up rewards for myself. I want to this year. Plus, I’ve always wanted a cool NaNo sweater or mug while also supporting this amazing charity.
Share a tip for other NaNo-ers!
With word count goals, don’t be too hard on yourself. NaNoWriMo is meant to motivate writers to write and to encourage creativity. Any amount you write, whether it’s 5 words or 50,000 words, is progress. Celebrate progress.
How are you feeling about NaNoWriMo? (Excited?! Nervous!? Terrified?!)
All of the above. Lately, I’ve been feeling so stuck with my WIP, I’m afraid I’ll still be stuck during NaNoWriMo. On the other hand, I’m determined to work on my WIP and excited to share my experience and connect with other writers.
Share an aesthetic for your NaNoWriMo novel!
Hope you all enjoyed my answers for this tag. I tag any other NaNoWriMo participants who want to share their project. Shout out again to Jai Lyn. Please go check out their blog, there’s some wonderful content to be found.
To all those attempting NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you the best of luck. Let me know in the comments what you are working on for November. As always, I love to hear for you writer bees.
Stay safe and keep writing!
— Lady Jabberwocky
Toss a Coin to Your Blogger
Every penny helps support the lady behind this blog!
These are just some of the iconic duos of detective fiction. Where would an inspector be without their trusted companion? Today, I’m talking about the detective’s partner in crime, the “Watson” of a story and what to consider when creating this character.
The Function of the Foil
Opposites attract, right? The purpose of a foil, or a foil character, is to highlight the traits of the main character. Their contrast in personality or appearance reflect and highlight the specific traits and quirks of a protagonist.
For example, if the detective is level-headed, maybe their sidekick is impulsive. If the detective is a total genius, maybe their companion is a bit oblivious. Play around with the duo’s personalities. You might find their differences make them even more compatible.
For the People
Not only does the sidekick serve their detective, they also serve the audience. Usually, the “Watson” is charged with narrating the story, and every step of the investigation. They pull information about the case from the inspector, or from their own observations, and present them to the reader.
As a close ally, know the inspector well. Keep the detective human. When the main sleuth is hard to read, their companion acts as a bridge between a distant detective and the audience. Through their interactions with the sleuth, the partner keeps the detective human, and that is such an important role in a mystery plot.
The heart of any mystery is the relationship between the inspector and his companion. Partners balance each other out. Let there be a solid comradery and playful banter. Readers want to see how these two characters play off one another. Oftentimes, the sidekick is there for the detective to bounce theories off of. Think about it, Watson is an extension of the detective’s thought process.
Are they roommates? Lovers? Acquaintances? Have fun with their relationship between the inspector and their companion. Readers want to root for a dynamic duo. Sure, they may not be on the same page all the time. During their sleuthing, morals and consciences will be tested. A little conflict between the two makes things interesting.
At the end of the day, a sleuth’s sidekick can be a valuable addition to a mystery story. Really consider the kind of partner your detective characters need by their side during an investigation.
Who are some of your favorite detective duos? Lemme know in the comments!
“You suffered a serious loss this summer, Bianca. The school faculty was concerned, even the principal wanted me to check up on you.” Let me assure you, I did not have time to have a conversation with the school’s psychiatrist. Sitting amongst a sea of throw pillows in a cramped office, I adjusted my Edgar Allen Poe patterned socks. On his desk, a wooden crane dipped up and down, moving on its own accord.
“Oh I’m fine.” Reassuring others that I was fine seemed to become a common occurrence nowadays. Students treated me like I was some tragic mess, fragile and ready to crumple at any moment. Hardly. There’s more to my story than that.
“It appears so.” The therapist shuffled his paperwork. My life condensed in a manilla folder. “Excelling in all of your classes. Writing for the school newspaper. Volunteering in the school play.”
My shoulders bounced. “I try to keep busy.” And Chester always did like the theatre.
“This is a safe place to talk about him.” Mister Raphael reminded. Yes, because the motivational poster of a polar bear climbing a mountain really made me feel safe to express my feelings. “Grief takes many forms.”
Fingers fidgeted with the sleeve of my wool sweater. My eyes kept glancing at the clock. This meeting lasted 6 minutes and 47 seconds, 5 minutes longer than necessary. Why did I give up free period for this? Although my jaw tightened, I forced a smile. “He was my boyfriend since freshman year. We were planning to go to the same college together. Get married. Kids. White picket fence.” Excuse the cynicism, it had been a long semester, with more sympathetic looks than I could count. Some of them didn’t even know Chester.
“He’d want me to keep going.” Not very poetic, but very true, nonetheless.
After a couple seconds of silence, I informed Mister Raphael about the pieces I planned to write for the school newspaper. I had a journal filled with notes and outlines for possible articles. While talking about news topics, an eagerness returned to my voice. Are the tofu burgers in the cafeteria really vegan? Did last year’s valedictorian cheat on his SATs?
“And I’m also looking into the recent disturbances at the graveyard.” Mysterious happenings were happening in the Westminster Cemetery. The reporter in me must investigate. The ceiling light flickered above. “Or maybe I should write about the school’s faulty wiring.”
We share an uneasy, cordial laugh. Then, It was time to leave. “Well, my door is always open, if you need an ear.”
With my chin raised and a sigh of relief, I exited the office. Ponytail swishing from side to side. The halls were mostly clear, except for a few lingering students and a security guard distracted by his smartphone.
“Grief takes many forms.” Those empathetic words felt lackluster on my lips. I stared at my reflection in the vending machine window. “How am I supposed to grieve when you won’t quit bothering me?” One of the metal rings in the machine spiraled, releasing a snack from it’s grip. A bag of honey wheat pretzels, my favorite.
I couldn’t help but smile. What a charmer, even in death.
Hey Writer Bees! Hope you enjoyed this little scene. Lately, I’ve been playing around with the idea of a having fiction series on this blog, updating with a new chapter each month. This is just a snippet of a mystery plot, following Bianca, the school reporter, and the unusual events happening in Baltimore.
Want to read more of this story? How do you feel about a regular series on this blog? Be honest, and let me know what you think in the comments.
Today, we are going back to basics in story writing. What point of view is best for your WIP? Let’s break down the different kinds of narrators in a story.
(Psst! Don’t forget to check out that Patreon page! Keep this party going! )
First Person Narrator
Pronouns: I, my, me.
Example: The Narrator from Moby Dick. ” Call me Ishmael.”
First Person is a very personal perspective. The reader has a front row seat to this character’s feelings, thoughts and experience in the world. This can be either a main character or a distant observer. By using the first person narrative, it puts a limit to what the narrator, and the reader, knows and doesn’t know. This kind of narrator cannot know
Second Person Narrator
Pronouns: You, Your.
A Second Person Narrator talks directly to the audience, enveloping the reader into the story itself. Think of it like playing a choose your own adventure game, where the reader is a character. “You do this, you see that.” This one is quite rare in fiction; It’s more for technical writing. It’s difficult to perfect, but not impossible, so don’t be discouraged to experiment with this style.
Example: If I’m remembering correctly, Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has some chapters using second person that are utterly enchanting.
Third Person Narrator (Limited)
Pronouns: He, she, they.
Another popular option that gives the writer more freedom to move around, follow multiple characters and explore multiple rooms of the house, so to speak. Usually, the third person narrator isn’t an actual character at all. It’s a more objective viewpoint, which can lead to a lack of connection with the reader. The audience is privy to more information about the plot, information the main characters may not even be aware of, but not the characters personal thoughts and feelings.
Usually third person. Uses ‘he, she, they’ pronouns.
With this one, the narrator knows everything, from feelings to inner thoughts. Imagine an all knowing, all seeing God-like being looking down at the world and relaying the story to the reader. Some can argue that it’s the author themselves telling the story. I’ll let you be the judge.
Usually first person, usually undependable.
Some narrators just can’t be trusted, can they? The viewpoint of this narrator is very biased, clouded by their own, possibly flawed judgement. Other characters in the story may not be described accurately because of the narrator’s own perception. Certain events can be skewed. Even the narrator himself could be not what he appears to be
Example: Check out the narrator from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. He may know more about the murder than he is letting on. Wink wink.
Choose Your Narrator Wisely
Really take the time to think about whom the narrator will be and how well they can tell your/their story. It’s important for the reader to really connect and be engaged with the character or viewpoint chosen. Think of it like this, the narrator is the reader’s vehicle as they ride the rollercoaster that is your story. That makes sense right?
If you are struggling to decide which narrative you want to use, try multiple styles. No harm in experimenting. It’s like reading an essay for school out loud before handing it in. You’ll know what fits your story best when you read it.
Today, we are talking about clichés. Those overused and utterly boring plot devices that drag a story down into the abyss of unoriginality. Here are four clichés to avoid so your story can shine in all it’s original and spectacular glory.
Describing Self in Mirror
I confess, I’m guilty of this one. It’s tricky to describe what a first person narrator looks like. But it is unrealistic. How many times have you looked at your reflection and described yourself to yourself? Unless your narrator is incredibly self indulgent and narcissistic, talking about one’s reflection is a cheap trick. And some find it a bit lazy.
Instead, leave it up to the reader’s imagination. Let them create an image of the character themselves. Or, have another character make a comment about one’s appearance. This will throw subtle hints to the reader about what the narrator looks like. Maybe something like, “Wow, your hair has grown so long!” or “You look just like your father.”
You know what I mean? You know what I mean.
All Hail, The Chosen One
Yeah, that’s right, I’m calling out characters like Harry Potter and Frodo and (I’m so sorry) King Arthur. Fight me. Many fantasy stories have this idea of the Chosen One, the guy who is destined to save the world, defeat the big baddie, find or destroy the magical item. The fates have decided that this is THE guy to do all that. And he happens to still be in high school or college.
Truthfully? No divine intervention required. Your hero does not need to be chosen by destiny to be special. Heroes aren’t born, they’re created. Just because they were “chosen”, does not make them heroic in nature. It just forces a character into a role. Make your character a hero worth rooting for. Give them the motivation behind their good deeds and give their true purpose to defeat evil wherever it lurks.
What a Knockout
Did a character suddenly fall unconscious? And they wake up in another location? That’s a weak transition. And if that were to happen in real life, you’d need to rush to the hospital, not the next scene. Having a character faint just to move to another location quickly is overly dramatic and far too convenient. There are ways to ease into a new setting and make for a more graceful transition. Try and figure out how to move the plot along some other way.
Bad Parents Make Bad People
Big cliché alert. Antagonist who are products of horrible childhoods. It’s touch to justify a jerk of a character and his or hers bad behavior. And things like abuse or cruel parents make the evil character easy to forgive. No, I’m not trying to belittle someone’s tragic backstory. And yes, these things do happen in real life. However, I’m just saying , It can’t be that simple to explain away their flaws and their poor choice.
The only way to combat this tired cliché is to really focus on characterization. Give him or her a better reason to be a jerk than their bad parents. And keep in mind, not every antagonist comes from a broken home. Think about the jerks that come from perfectly lovely families. Now that’s scary.
Only You Can Tell Your Story
While some clichés are tough to avoid, let your story speak for itself. Don’t copy parts from other books or movies. Pick those boring clichés out with a tweezer and let your originality stand on it’s own. Turn stereotypes on it’s head and leave dull plot lines in the dust.
What’s one cliché in writing you can’t stand? Let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to check out the tip jar.
As I am writing this post, I am watching my boyfriend, Michael, play a tabletop game called Warhammer. From my understanding, it’s like Dungeons and Dragons.
Watching this miniature war unfold, It’s got me thinking about heroes and villains and the importance of a good conflict. I have this pet peeve of protagonist being perfect and over powered and overcoming obstacles with little effort, very convenient. Then you’ve got villains who are evil for no reason other than the fact that they are completely rotten to the core. Literally cringing while writing these pet peeves right now.
Real characters, like actual human beings, aren’t so black and white.
Let’s start with protagonists. Here are some key things to keep in mind when constructing a hero.
Goal: What is the hero’s motivation? Why are they doing what they are doing? Having a purpose gives your character, and the over all plot, a direction. Also it throws fuel onto the conflict fire (if that makes sense).
Be Real: Being realistic means having flaws. Don’t make your character too cookie cutter perfect. Readers relate to imperfections. We want to read stories with characters who have positive and negative traits, who face obstacles with some struggle.
Growth: Over the course of a story arch, the character at the beginning of the must be different in some way to the same character at the end. Think of us, as people. We grow, we evolve, we change, and we learn things. Fictional characters must do the same.
There’s been a “tragic” dice roll.
I suppose that’s a good enough transition to writing antagonists.
Goal: Like your protagonist, the antagonist needs solid motivation. Have them act with purpose, not just because their evil. If your villain wants to destroy a city, it shouldn’t be because they just want to ruin someone’s day.
Be Real: Even an antagonist can have positive traits. No one can be completely bad. As I said before, things aren’t simply black and white. However, your antagonist should have an intimidating presence, to the hero and the audience. There are some villains we just love to hate.
Integrity: Put up a worthy adversary against your hero. The villain should put up a fight and carry out every threat made. When Darth Vader said he was going to blow up a planet, he blew up a planet. If at the end of the story, the antagonist loses and cries “Curses! Foiled again!” then just melts into a wimpy puddle, you may want to reevaluate things.
And here’s a question; does the hero have to win every battle?
Take note of some of your favorite hero and villain characters and really think about what makes them great.
Write with heart,