THE EVOLUTION OF A CHARACTER
By Louise Titchener
Toni Credella, the lead character in my four-book Baltimore mystery series, started off as someone else. In days of yore, before I wrote mystery novels, I wrote romance novels for Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette I turned from romance to murder and mystery/crime is where my writing is today. But one of my last romance novels was a Harlequin Super romance titled “Beyond Mere Words.”
This story was about a dyslexic young woman living in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood. She falls in love with a wealthy lawyer who is about to embark on a political career. Overwhelmed by his east coast education and put off by his upper class background, she doesn’t tell him about her reading problems.
The bulk of the story is about how these seemingly mis-matched characters overcome the divide between them.
I can’t write a book until the main characters are clear to me. Sometimes that’s a long hard road. Francy was one of those magical characters who sprang to life in my imagination immediately. I was sad when the novel finished and we parted ways.
A couple of years later I wrote my first mystery, Homebody, after hearing a police officer talk about serial killers and their all too often female victims. I guess Francy was still living somewhere in the back of my mind, because when Toni Credella became the main character in my mystery, she had a lot in common with Francy. In many ways they were soul sisters. Like Francy, Toni sprang from an Italian family and lived in Baltimore’s Little Italy. Like Francy, Toni was dyslexic and had an older sister.
There, however, the close resemblance faded. Unlike Francy, Toni has a troubled relationship with her family. Unlike Francy, Toni survived a disastrous marriage. Before the novel starts Toni has accidentally shot and killed her abusive cop husband and suffers from guilt.
For a long time I felt guilty because I had stolen my own character and then transformed her. Now I look back and think, “well that’s interesting.” I wonder what Francy and Toni would think of each other if they ever go for lunch in Little Italy.
I've been writing novels and teaching about writing novels for many years. It's true that some people write well from the beginning of their careers. It's also true that writing is a craft you get better at over time. I hope to describe some of what I've learned about the craft in my blogs. Please join me.