Where Writers’ Ideas Come From: Creating a 360-degree Character

Archer Landis, protagonist of my forthcoming murder mystery, Architect of Courage, is not one of those characters who seems to have no life outside the confines and events of the story. Writing about his role as the head of a large architecture firm with offices across the United States and in Dubai, with all its challenges and demands, allowed me to develop him as a more fully rounded character, a person with a “real life.” Using a single point of view in this story may make that total immersion easier.

When bad things start happening to Landis, he has to take into account their effects on his family and staff. He’s running a big business, he employs hundreds of people and encourages new architects, clients have invested millions of dollars in projects his firm is leading. The world isn’t waiting while he recovers from events directed at him; decisions have to be made. He can’t just ignore all that and, in the story, dealing with familiar issues reassures him he can handle the unexpected.

As an example in which the character’s life didn’t mesh realistically with the story, I think of a mystery in which the protagonist (a police detective) had a partner who was a female hockey player. Possibly interesting, no? Some possible plot implications too, right? In that novel, the women’s hockey team had an important all-star game coming up. The pressure was on. But in the month or so of story time, she never attends a single practice. The author introduced hockey as an important part of her world and barely mentioned it thereafter. Missed opportunity.

One of the parts of Archer Landis I gave attention to is his role as mentor to his principal assistants. How much leeway does he give them? How does he reward, critique, and support them? They responded in unexpected ways, as people do, and there are still some Grand Canyon sized opportunities for misunderstanding. Landis is devoted to many aspects of his work, but one he doesn’t like? H.R. problems. And there are always those.

His relationships with his fellow architects, several of whom are close friends, are also important, if dwelt on less. When he needs them, they rally around. As do his firm’s attorney and public relations manager. It’s clear he’s been the kind of person whom others have confidence in and want to help, even though he’s stumbled here and there. I never have to come out and say this, it’s obvious in their actions toward him. Showing, not telling. At least that’s my hope!

1 thought on “Where Writers’ Ideas Come From: Creating a 360-degree Character

  1. It sounds like you’ve done a great job creating a well rounded character. I’m looking forward to reading this one.

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