by Annette Young
As part of our e-learning creative month, I wanted to take look at the art of crafting an amateur sleuth. The murder mystery or mystery genre is seriously popular but although competition is fierce, if you can create an amateur sleuth with all of the required traits, you could be onto a winner. This is an area of writing in which I love to write and, the amateur sleuth requires very specific traits and, must be crafted in a unique way, that’s if you wish to bring your super sleuth to life.
So what makes for a good sleuth?
When I created my first novel Who Killed September Falls? I wasn’t planning to turn the main character Arianne Tawnison into a typical sleuth, but, as a journalist, I wanted her to have a natural curiosity and sense of stubbornness. I also wanted to create a woman who was driven to find out the truth irrespective of the danger she was in herself. My focus through her at the time was solely on the death of her friend and that was the catalyst to make her enter the world of sleuthing and for her to travel from England to France to try to unravel the secrets surrounding her friend’s death. Importantly, I wanted to bring to life the sadness of the murder and of course, the shock factor. But, the more Arianne searched for clues, she discovered the many secrets woven around her best friend. As I wrote the story, I realised that the character Arianne Tawnison was simply too strong to use in just one story and so her journey continues even now.
But if you are looking to create your own amateur detective, it’s good to look at some of the greats.
Miss Marple is a prime example of a nosy old spinster who has a keen eye for the unseen and, who lives and breathes the psychology of those around her. Observation is one key skill as is having an analytical mind.
A sleuth must be able to see beneath the gloss and to dig deep into the crux of the matter. An amateur sleuth has to be strong in personality but importantly, have very unique traits that make the reader buy into the whole story. Your readers need to remember your character once they have finished reading and be oh so keen to read more.
I knew that I had captured the readers’ attention when I received some wonderful feedback about the depth of emotion and the journey that my personal amateur sleuth took. It’s a great feeling to know that you have created a memorable character and there’s something wonderful about crafting characters that count, even better if you can use these characters again and again. Each time you do, the character becomes more and more familiar and takes on a life all of its own.
If you want to know more about how to create an amateur sleuth, there’s a short but in-depth writing programme available which looks at the nuts and bolts of amateur sleuthing. Start at your own leisure and complete when ready. If you want to create your own Ms Marple or similar, this may be for you.