The simplest way to build characters

I think that's the longest title I've ever given a blog. But fear not, I don't expect the actual ramble to be so protracted.

I had a problem recently - no, don't say it, I know what you're thinking - this was with a couple of minor characters for the new tvdetective book, which is due out in spring of next year.

They weren't quite working for me. They were almost there, say 90% complete, but not entirely whole and rounded. Something was missing and I couldn't quite see what.

I chased the problem around for a few days, and it did what problems classically do when you go hunting them - it stayed just out of reach, waving happily and mocking me.

So I tried to find a solution in an old and loyal friend. Well, it was more than just beer in fact. I took a couple of hours sitting in the corners of two different busy pubs, to observe the people. Just sitting there quietly, with a piece of paper and a pen and my drink, and taking the odd note.)

(I had my own little bet on about how many people would ask me what I was doing, and it was more than I expected. I must have looked particularly strange, or sinister, or maybe (more likely?) both.)

Anyway, it took a fair bit less than the two hours I'd allowed before I had my solutions. And the answer was surprisingly simple, as often they are.

I only had to do some stealing. The odd mannerism from one person, a verbal tic from another, a piece of clothing from someone else, a feature of their appearance from another.

Donate them to my imaginary friends, and suddenly I could see my elusive and problematic minor characters far more clearly.

It was all down to this - at last I had the tiny, yet convincing details to make them live, and all was well.

Which was a mighty relief, as the first draft of the new book had to be in a few days later. More of that particular voyage of angst in the blogs to come.