As the author of a mystery series which features an old school detective set in the early 1900’s in London, I speak from experience when I say that writing a detective can be a difficult task. In a lot of instances, or at least for me anyway, I had to create a character who was smarter than me without taking any reality away from the story. There must be a level of believability and reality to the genius of your character. All while keeping him human and giving him his own hopes, dreams, fears, and issues. It’s not easy, but it can be done, and I have to say, that he can end up being your favorite character of all time with the proper work put into it.
There are so many things I could discuss how to create a detective. But below, I will give you some of the most pertinent ideas.
Motive: When you create a detective, you should make sure that he or she has a motive for what they do. You hear this talked about for your villain, but your protagonist needs them as much as the villain. What makes him want to solve crime? Or murders? Or thefts? What makes him seek to see justice served? Why did he choose to be a private detective over serving with the police or vice versa?
Quirks: This is always a fun one. Give your character something that makes them unique. It could be as silly as them not being able to stand fish. My character had a pride in his mustache and he also can’t stand the idea of smoking, which is something that is pretty common in the people that he works with. Does your character hate having to be social? Do they need to be alone to gather their thoughts? Are they backward when it comes to technology? Could they not live without chocolate? Adding these quirks really makes your character something special that will intrigue the readers, make them laugh, or even just make your detective more relatable to the casual observer.
Real Genius: You need to make your character a genius, without making him so smart that he is no longer believable. He needs to know things, but he has to figure them out by real observations. That really is the key to making it believable. He should be noticing things that the normal population does not.
Backstory/Personality: How is this character on an emotional level? Does he not do well socializing because of a) how he was raised, b) what is personality is like, etc. Backstory is really just a way to figure out what this person has been through in their life, where they have gone, what their schooling was, etc. Which will then funnel into what they are like as a person, because, all of our life happenings have formed and shaped us into who we are. And for the personality, if you want to take a Myers Briggs type of test for your character to determine their strengths and weaknesses, that is always fun and gives you a great basis for how they act and react.
Relationships: The secondary characters of your story can end up having a huge impact on who your character is and clueing the reader into who they are. What relationships are important to your detective? Are they incredibly close to their family? Do they have certain friends that compliment their personalities, or hit them over the head when they need it? Myers Briggs will also help with this if you are interested as it will tell you what type of personality your character gravitates towards. Is your detective independent? Or are they dependent on their friends and/or family? Who do they hang out with? Who do they merely tolerate, and who do they seek out for company?
There you have it! Some great starting places for creating your detective. One of the biggest things I can encourage you to do when creating your detective is to ask questions. Ask lots of them about every aspect of your character, and by answering them, you will have made a person who is well rounded and comes to life.
I hope you enjoyed my tips on creating your detective! I often share writing tips, tricks, and stories on my blog, victorialynnblog.com. Feel free to follow me there or on TikTok or Instagram!