Sunday, February 21, 2010

Character Counts Part 2

The lone detective...not unheard of, but in so many instances, a difficult character.

I don't know from where the idea originated for authors to create partners or support for their detectives, but it makes for a fascinating study. When I was thinking about the next supporting character, I was thinking about discussing Archie Goodwin. I thoroughly enjoy this man. his exploits throughout the years are wonderful, humorous, dangerous, enticing, witty, maddening and intelligent. Of course, even he would admit, he's not as intelligent as his boss.

Then it occurred to me how the main character, the main detective, would be mundane, boring, or possibly not credible, were it not for the associates and or partners who provide an outlet for explanation.

I'm a Doctor Who fan and watching a special about all of the doctors' companions, it was mentioned the Doctor NEEDED his companions, if only for them to scream at the monsters or, more specifically to say, "What's that?" so the Doctor could explain matters.

Look back at the history of mysteries (and I'm going to miss a whole bunch, so I if I forget one of you favorites, forgive me) and see how partners play a valuable and vital role. I mentioned Della Street last time. How successful would her boss be without her? How about Watson's continues ignorance to 'elementary' observations. The fat man may have been the brains, but most of the content of Stout's stories are about Goodwin's accumulation of the facts, about his pushing and goading Wolfe to act. The love shared by Velda and her tough guy boss. Hastings' continued astonishment of the 'little grey cells' of his mentor. Lewis' apparent failings to his enigmatic inspector. How would the Bailey's veteran attorney exist without "She-Who-Must-Be Obeyed"? Wouldn't Pascoe be absolutely bored without his own fat boss's bluntness? Lula, Connie, Grandma Mazur, Rex, Joe, Ranger and others all provide the craziness for the star who maybe couldn't find solutions without them. Stankowski's following after the eccentricities of his detective friend. (Anybody scratching their heads on this one needs to check out Richard Queen's frustration with his son's ideas is essential for the stories to be complete.

Partners add life to the main character. They also allow the reader to become more a part of the story. If all you read about was a murder, the detective looking for clues, then explaining it to the police or just arresting the perpetrator (if the detective is a cop) the mystery might be fairly average. The reader gets to become more involved in the story if he/she can sympathize with the role of supporting character. "I don't understand." "That idea is ridiculous." "What do you mean?" We as readers can enjoy not being the all-knowing, master of crime detection and enjoy when the solution is finally revealed.

In Beta, Mallory's support comes in the form of Darren, her secretary with the unpronounceable last name. She relies on him for computer support, friendship, and sometimes, a calming influence. With night Shadows, I try to equalize the characters, making each support the other. Campisisi's and Reznik is a complicated relationship that I hope to expand on in the second novel. I hope, however, the reader will be able to see how they mesh even as they conflict with each other.

Partners can be fun, sexy, exasperating, loony, and always seems to get the best lines. In Too Many Women, Goodwin describes a particular woman.

"With her black eyes saying plainly that they had never concealed anything and didn't intend to, her lips confirming it and approving of it,and all her making the comment on geometry that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points but you can't prove it by me, she was obviously the kind of that gets nicknamed."

Isn't that just a great line?

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