Getting into your characters – Inspector Kirby and Harold Longcoat

My latest project, Inspector Kirby and Harold Longcoat, due to be launched in a few week’s time, was great fun to write.  Possibly, because it’s a change from my normal diet of science fiction, set as it is in the present day, more-or-less.  It’s a detective, mystery story, again something new for me, although not quite that straightforward.  If you’ve read some of my short stories you’ll understand.  It’s also allowed me to play with the humour in my writing.  However, I think one of the keys to getting that part of it right was developing sympathetic characters who would play off each other.

Kirby is a late forties police inspector, called ‘old school’ by his younger colleagues on account of him calling a phone “a phone” and not a mobile and believing some good old fashioned footwork will solve more crimes than spending hours on google.  He’s most comfortable in his old tweed jacket and a stout pair of brown brogues.  He’s seen most of what life can throw at you as a Newcastle copper.  That is until he meets Harold Longcoat the corner shopkeeper, who isn’t.  Well he is, it’s just that he’s more than that.  At first glance he appears to be in his seventies, at second glance more fifties and then there’s… well that’s for the book.  Also, in this particular case Harold often knows more of what’s going on than Kirby, which includes things Kirby would be happier not to know.

Getting the right police partner for Kirby was also important to stop him becoming pompous and that’s where constable Shirley Barker comes in.  Shirley also approaches things from a different angle which helps the narrative.  Prone to saying what she thinks out loud and treading, at times, a fine line between humour and being flippant she can take the conversation to places that just wouldn’t be right for Kirby.  As the story progresses and more characters appear the more Kirby’s police sanity is challenged and it’s his relationship with Shirley that helps restore the balance.

It’s not that I don’t think the characters are any less important in my science fiction novels.  It’s just that here the interplay between all of them is what drives the story.  Kirby is a detective and he finds out what he needs to know by talking to people.  So, from the stories perspective those people have to be worth talking to.  The fun part for me was watching those characters develop as the book unfolded, watching them gain personality, come alive.  Just like meeting anyone for the first time you know little of them.  Then as you get to meet them more and more you learn about their foibles and what makes them tick, they become more interesting, eventually becoming friends.

Kirby and I have become such good friends over the this book that I have a completed first draft of a second and I’m planning the third.  So, you see, it pays to get on with your characters.

Inspector Kirby and Harold Longcoat will be launched in the next few weeks.  If you’d like notice of this event please sign up to my mailing list (on or before 19th October 2017) and receive my free collection of short stories via this link.   I will be contacting all those on my mailing lists with an exclusive pre-launch offer.

As always comments are welcome

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

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