Saturday 26 October 2013


However clever and intriguing the storyline, no novel succeeds without strong characters. They need to be credible so readers can believe in them. It is also important to decide which characters your readers should be rooting for. If readers don't care what happens to any of the characters in a book, they will rapidly lose interest. 

There are a number of steps you can take to ensure your characters come to life for the reader. First of all characters need to be recognisable and consistent, yet not so predictable that they become dull and two dimensional. A little planning will enable you to include some plausible surprises to keep your readers engaged. 

It is advisable to keep notes, especially if you are planning to write a series using the same characters. Notes can be stored physically or electronically, but make sure they are easy to access. You do not want to waste time searching for notes on a particular character while you are in full creative flow. Quick reference to your notes will ensure you avoid both contradiction and reiteration. However your notes are stored, make sure you keep a back up.

Many authors write detailed character sketches before starting their narrative, deciding on characters' personal history and tastes in advance. Much of this information may not appear explicitly in the book, but it informs the writing nevertheless. Familiarising yourself with your characters will help you to write about them with confidence, and they will seem three dimensional and more credible result.  

Think about the point of view you select. First person takes the reader right into the situation, alongside your narrator. Third person allows the writer to present aspects of the narrative from different angles. This enables you to make use of dramatic irony, where the reader is aware of something unknown to a character - the 'He's behind you!' technique exploited in pantomime. Both points of view can be effective, so think carefully about the best way to communicate your story to your readers. 

Most readers like to be given a physical description of a main character, although some prefer to create that image for themselves. You need to decide how much you are going to tell your reader about your protagonist's appearance, and how best to convey this information. Try to avoid cliches, although at one time or another most authors (myself included) resort to a character examining himself or herself in a mirror to allow for a brief physical description. There are other ways to do this, by having one character observe another character's appearance, for example. This should fit naturally into the narrative, such as a detective studying a murder victim. "... the dead woman had been slender and short.  Her dark grey hair was streaked with chestnut brown that glimmered in the bright lights.  Pulled back off her face, it gave her a severe appearance...  She had small neat features, well-proportioned, and must have been quite attractive when she was younger. In death her face looked ghastly, grey and somehow shrunken, as though her cheeks had collapsed inwards..."    

The chances of even being published are very slim, but there is always a possibility you may be writing a future bestseller. Either way, creating convincing and engaging characters is a vital part of writing a book. 

Adapted from my Writers' Tips first published by the Crime Writers Association on the CRA Website. 

Saturday 19 October 2013

News, Views, Interviews and Tips

October 19th 2013

Having been very remiss for many months, I'll be posting regularly again here on my blog.

I intend to post news about my experience writing for No Exit Press, described on the Huffington Post as "a smallish Independent, doing their best to bring some the world's best underground crime fiction to the forefront." I'll also share the regular 'Writers' Tips' I write for the Crime Writers Association, and my monthly interviews with other authors I wrote for Mystery People.

There probably won't be pictures, as it's a more complicated process now than it used to be to post photos here. (Or is it just me?)  As well as following this blog for more detailed ramblings, please check my facebook page where I regularly post photos of my events and adventures. The link is on my website Leigh Russell website

So here is my first news post for a while...Having recently recovered from a nasty cold, I'm busier than ever. The run up to Christmas is always hectic for authors, with promotional events. Between now and Christmas I'll be visiting York, Scarborough, Ealing, Harrow, Bedford, Watford, Birmingham Solihull, Leamington Spa and Coventry. Details are listed on my website under 'Events' on so please check my website and come and say hello if I'm in your area.

My new spin off series features Geraldine Steel's sergeant, Ian Peterson. The first in the series, Cold Sacrifice, is just out in print. In the next novel Ian Peterson moves to York so right now I'm in York doing some research. I'll be signing in Waterstones here and in Scarborough, giving an interview to a reporter from the York Press, going to the BBC Radio York studios for an interview, and talking at Scarborough Library where the librarian produced a fabulous poster for my visit. Local contacts are helping me explore the area, from race course to mortuary, and I've had a great idea for the third Ian Peterson murder investigation!

With everything in place for my two week trip to York, at the last minute I had to rearrange my visit to Waterstones in Scarborough, originally booked for Friday 25th, when the lovely director of the CWA invited me to attend the televised Crime Thriller Award Ceremony in London. I couldn't turn down a 'golden ticket'. I feel like Charlie off to the Chocolate Factory! My return train ticket is booked to London, unusually I've packed rather a lot of sequins, and my house mates have been warned to expect me home overnight on the 24th. I'll be back in Scarborough in time for my talk at the library at 7pm on Friday the 25th.

Stopping at services on the way to York, I spotted the cover of Cold Sacrifice on the front of Take A Break Fiction Feast in W H Smith's. Arriving in York I was reassured to hear from the librarian that York Library stocks all my books - every one was out on loan, even the large print edition. So I'm here in York enjoying a nice glass of a Chianti with a bowl of olives and a yummy giant cheese pretzel, the weather is fine, and I have a rare day off tomorrow!

In other exciting news, in addition to events in bookshops and libraries, ebook sales are looking robust. Two of my titles are in the Top 100 on kindle, Cut Short at number 54 and Road Closed at number 69. Cut Short has been selected for the kindle Autumn promotion and can be downloaded for 99p until the end of October.  Cut Short on kindle