08 September, 2016

#GuestPost :: Character Development by Bill Larkin, #Author of Bullet in the Sky

About the Author:
Bill Larkin writes crime fiction and is the author of two highly-acclaimed books: Bullet in the Blue Sky and Detective Lessons. He has also written several short stories, including The Highlands and Shadow Truth, both Amazon category bestsellers. Bill previously served as a reserve with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, then the Los Angeles Police Department where he worked in four different divisions and a detective assignment. Bill is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. 

Catch Up With Mr. Larkin:
Website * Twitter

Character Development

I usually write character biographies to weave in traits, flaws, and little pieces of background. My three rules are that protagonists have to face a series of problems, a goal (sometimes shifting), and have some personal stake in the story, whether he or she knows it at the outset or not.  As Frank Capra said, the whole thing is you’ve got to make them care about somebody.

My main protagonist – Kevin “Schmitty” Schmidt - is an Average Joe, a somewhat regular guy thrust into unexpected situations. Hitchcock liked these protagonists. Since I write crime fiction, I’m looking for some character weaknesses, growth and ways that a story and other characters influence the protagonist, but I’m not trying to create deep transformation. I want readers to experience the story through this protagonist’s world view. He may be flawed in ways, but he is a professional who will, somehow, figure out the solution. We know he’s the guy to right the wrong, with a will to justice and a sense of humor.

Protagonists need a weakness, need or “ghost” – something holding them back, especially as it relates to solving the story problems and facing the villain. Other protagonist types include a traditional Hero (James Bond, any superhero), an Anti-Hero who’s morally defective, a Lost Soul who’s lost in life, or an Underdog (Forrest Gump or Maximus in Gladiator). 

The construct of the villain is tied to the very premise of the story, whether it be a desire for belonging, acceptance, revenge, money, power, or self-indulgence. The better villains are ones who we sympathize with, or sometimes root for, in movies, books and television. Sometimes called antihero villains, protagonist-antagonists with roles related to any theme must represent another way of thinking and living, opposed to the protagonist. Seldom black or white.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad crosses lines he’d never been prepared to cross before. Viewers got to see his rise to criminal mastermind and navigating that life while trying to maintain his family life, including keeping his brother-in-law DEA agent in the dark. In the first season of the fantastic TV show Fargo, mild-mannered, shy, under-achieving Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) encounters a drifter/hitman named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) who sets Lester on a path to becoming a very clever killer and manipulator.

I prefer action and dialogue to extended backstory or flashbacks. But a few facts and tidbits blended in give a character some dimension. In the end, the protagonist should experience a maturing, or personal victory, self-revelation, or life-changing event. More than anything for both the protagonist and antagonist, they both have to want something. It can be the same thing, or different things, or related things, but there has to be the level of conflict giving each character his or her own motivations putting them at odds with high stakes for both. 

In Casablanca. Rick’s previous Paris romance with Ilsa is his “ghost.” This part of the backstory was mentioned but not fully explored, so we understand it hurt Rick and we know he’s a different man because of it. A wound that haunts him and makes him irascible and isolated, then in the movie he makes a decision that is not only for the greater good, but helps him heal his own wound and face his ghost.

About the Book:
In the chaotic aftermath of a massive earthquake that leveled much of the Los Angeles region, a LAPD deputy chief sends an elite team of detectives on a rescue mission. They are ordered to set aside all law enforcement duties, to ignore the destruction and to focus on one task: Find LAPD Detective Gavin Shaw, who disappeared just before the earthquake.

Kevin “Schmitty” Schmidt of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department joins five others on the rescue team. With rioting, looting, attacks and homicides rampant in the streets, the six cops have to defend themselves while chasing down leads on the whereabouts of Shaw. The mission takes them through the dizzying war zone and the more they encounter, the more they wonder why they are searching for one man in these extreme circumstances. Why is this man so important to the deputy chief, and why now?

Schmitty discovers that others with high connections are also after Shaw. The questions pile even higher when they learn of a shadowy history between Shaw and the deputy chief. A history with deadly consequences for the team as they uncover a threat that elevates the mission to a race against time.

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Bill Larkin. There will be ONE (1) prize & ONE (1) Winner for this tour. The winner will receive 1 copy of Bullet in the Blue Sky by Bill Larkin. Winners within the United States may choose either an eBook or a physical book however, winners outside the US can only receive an eBook. This is subject to change without notification. The giveaway begins on August 1st and runs through Septermber 30th, 2016.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment:

  1. Great post especially since I read this book and found it interesting how the characters were developed.