Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Old Flames and Their Uses

Last weekend I was at a family wedding and bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen for two years. The last time we’d spoken she’d been madly in love with Mr. X. Unfortunately, despite a promising beginning, the cad had cheated on her and eventually run off with her best friend.

In an attempt to cheer her up I said, “Well … I am looking for a victim for my new Vicky Hill mystery. Do you want me to kill him off?”

She was thrilled.

I emailed my friend a few questions and now it was my turn to be thrilled.
In fact, Mr. X was such an interesting character that I decided to write the story around him. Here are some snippets: Thinning hair, pasty white skin and a tendency to burn in the sun. He was a video game developer who specialized in special effects and—of course—was obsessed with playing video games as well. In college Mr. X was the captain of “Dungeons and Dragons.” He also started a dodge ball team called … Naughty Balls.

My friend loved Mr. X’s spontaneity. For their third (and as yet unconsummated) date he surprised her with two round trip tickets for a weekend in New York including dinner at a flashy restaurant and a Broadway Show. Mr. X was charismatic, romantic, smart, intelligent and funny—her ideal man.

On the flipside, she said his inability to be on time for anything drove her insane. Hence they nearly missed their flights to and from New York; they definitely missed their Broadway show and the maitre d’ let their table go when they showed up almost one hour late for their reservation. And of course, he cheated.

And finally … Mr. X. had an Achilles heel. He was highly allergic to water so every time he took a shower he came out in hives.

I always find it a challenge to build a new character from scratch. In fact, as I write more books I have a tendency to repeat generic characteristics despite keeping a Master Character Bible.

But now I have endless resources! When one reaches a certain age I find many of my friends have gone around the romantic block a few times (including myself). If a woman (or man) scorned finds revenge among the pages of my mystery book, then I’m happy to oblige and I’ve discovered a unique character.

Please note: Mr. X’s real name will never be revealed. But we know who you are. Don’t we Sandra? (Just kidding).


Alice Trego said...

What a fascinating way to flesh out a fictional character! Some of the flaws you mention here are hilarious, and they certainly intrigue me, as well. I'll definitely pick up this book, just to see how you managed to do away with this character :)

Aline Templeton said...

It sounds as if anyone who'd ever met him could identify him from that vivid pen sketch, Hannah - be carefulyou don't get sued for libel!

Aline Templeton said...

It sounds as if anyone who'd ever met him could identify him from that vivid pen sketch, Hannah - be carefulyou don't get sued for libel!

LD Masterson said...

Allergic to water. Now that's interesting. I didn't know that was possible. What if the allergy was so severe it could be fatal. Think of the murder possibilities.

Hannah Dennison said...

LD ... what a GREAT idea! I hadn't even considered that. (Thank you) and Aline -- thanks for the warning :)

Charlotte Hinger said...

Allergic to water? Egads! So what does he do about keeping clean?

Hannah Dennison said...

I'm not sure. My vivid imagination wants to go where it really shouldn't ...