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Meet the strangers within you.

Strangers, how can that be?  You are who you are, there is only one you.  But not if you are a writer or actor.

Actors have to become the characters they portray, while writers the characters they invent and make vivid with words.  To be a good writer you must become the character you write about.  You must know how they behave, think, react, dress.  What makes them scared, brave, angry, sad?


In my crime thriller novels, The Unseen, The Uncounted and The Unwanted, my protagonist, Sean Fagan, is a large, dependable policeman with a failed marriage, two teenaged daughters, a liking for Guinness, class music and Victoria Lawless, his girlfriend.

Fine, you say, easy character for a male writer to portray.  True, especially if I base his behaviour similar to some of my own.  But when I write from Victoria’s point of view, then I have to mentally change gender.

To truthfully portray her character so the reader believes in her, I must understand her passions, her motivations, her anger.  I must be inside her body to feel the joy of her love making, her sweat, her fear; what clothes she likes, her feelings towards others and the forces which drive her.  I must become Victoria Lawless, in mental vision and physical presence.  If I do not, the reader will see a shallow character, one they cannot believe in.  In which case I fail as a writer.

So, there are two strangers I have, but darker ones lurk in the deep recesses of a writer’s mentality.

In The Unseen I have a brutal psychopath named Zoby who butchers his victims and keeps body parts as trophies.  To portray him as a believable mad man I have to look inside his mind and understand why he commits the horrors he does.  What are his thoughts, his motivations, his pleasures?  I have to become Zoby in the same way I became Sean and Victoria.  That can be scary.  For Zoby and his actions are inventions of my mind.  This is what I mean when I say meet the strangers within you.  Read The Unseen and meet some of my strangers.  Read The Unseen http://tinyurl.com/c3yjc9l

Frontcover of the unseen

More about characters in my next set of meditations from a bar stool.  How to change gender, how to think like a killer.

Go to my website http://www.crimefiction-jamesmckenna.co.uk