Re: Father Figure (was Re: RARA-AVIS: Positions still open)

From: Patrick King (
Date: 14 Aug 2008

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    --- On Thu, 8/14/08, sandra seamans <> wrote:

    From a writer's standpoint having a child would create a set of problems that would slow the story down.  Your character couldn't just drop everything and rush out the door, or pull a gun and shoot somebody with a child in room.  You'd have to create daycare or someone readily available to babysit.  Then there's changing diapers, feeding, naps, bedtimes and as the child got older you'd have to work around school, recitals, and Little League.
      As a reader, you're not going to like a character who puts his or her family responsibilites second to a case they're working.  I am surprised that Burke keeps marrying off Dave R. as his wives keep getting knocked off while he's investigating crimes.  I would have thought losing your wife violently once  would be enough for any person bear, but then to kill the second and have him marry a third wife?  That's stepping beyond the bounds of reality for me.  But that's just my opinion.

    It's my opinion, too, Sandra. I don't think giving a detective a normal home life does anything to elevate the story. I've seldom seen it done well in fiction. John Douglas's firt book, MINDHUNTER, which explains how he became a FBI profiler, does an excellent job explaining how his family became the victim of his job. If a writer used that template: showing how a homicide detective seeing a child's body beaten to death becomes completely callous to his own children's scraped knee, that might enhance a story. Some of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels touch on this, and certainly his Matthew Hope series handles the real life of the "detective" well. But usually adding a homelife and real problems to a detective character slows down the story to hand and can add a saccharine element from which the story never recovers. Doyle, Hammett, and Chandler had it right: no matter how engaging the detective may be, he is merely a tool to unravell the real story being
     told backward in a mystery. Any element added to the character detracts from the writer's job, it does not add to it. The only reason for a detective to go to an AA meeting is to find a killer or find a witness to the killing. If the detective need to go to the meeting for his own purposes, the reader doesn't need to know about it.

    Patrick King


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