Characters or Concepts

This month’s topic is rebels. That’s a broad topic with lots of meaning for writers. Both of my series characters are rebels to a certain extent. They have to be. My characters are amateur sleuths. It takes a bit of rebel to decide to solve a murder if you are not a cop. Of course, the murder (or crime) has to hit close to home, and the character needs good reason for her involvement, but beyond that—it takes a rebellious streak. Keeping that rebellious streak in the realm of reality is the writer’s job. Neither of my characters are vigilantes, neither believe the police incompetent. What then, do they think? Usually that the police are overlooking a valuable bit of information, something my amateur sleuth knows, that is also known to the cops.

That little nugget of information is the core of the rebellion. My sleuths look at it and see one story, the police look at it and see something harmless. In Death by Blue Water, Hayden discovered a charm bracelet on a dive. What the cops thought was little more than a lucky find, Hayden knew told a story of tragedy. It was this tiny find that helps bring the killer to justice, and nearly costs Hayden her life. In Murder in the Multiples, Catherine Swope looks at the crime scene and sees high-level official involvement while the cops see a drug deal gone bad. Each of these women rebelled against the status quo, followed their hunches and brought down the killers. The rebel is a facet of each of these women’s characters. The balance of their lives are lived within the same lines as you or I.

The definition of rebellion is the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention. Mystery stories are conceptually rebellious. The writer looks at everyday life and says, ‘what if.’ The ‘what if’ becomes the point of rebellion. The turning point where something that should be ordinary and everyday hits that bump in the road. There is societal conflict. Someone has resisted authority, broken the conventions, and committed a crime. It is up to our sleuths, rebels themselves, to bring closure, to return their world to the status quo.

The rebellion in some traditional mysteries and cozies is softer. While still dealing with death, the nastier actions take place off the page and the heroine is front and center. In thrillers and traditional mysteries of the noir persuasion, the rebellion takes place on the page. The reader witnesses it. The heroine is often not as much front and center as the villain or the act of rebellion. It’s a different treatment of a similar concept.

What about you, do you like your rebels hard or soft boiled?


Author: kaitcarson

I write mysteries set in South Florida. The Hayden Kent series is set in the Florida Keys. Hayden is a SCUBA diving paralegal who keeps finding bodies. Underwater, no one can hear you scream! Catherine Swope is a Miami Realtor with a penchant for finding bodies in the darndest places. I live in an airpark in Fort Denaud, FL with my husband, five cats, and a flock of conures. And oh yes, a Piper Cherokee 6 in the hangar!

8 thoughts on “Characters or Concepts”

  1. Good point, Kait. Mysteries are all about rebellion from the natural order. And sometimes requires rebellious people to put that order back. As long as the characters are well-written, I like all manner of rebels – hard and soft.


  2. Nice post, Kait. I often think of my main character as having a stubborn mind of her own; someone who isn’t afraid to break the rules if it’s for a good cause. After reading your post, I realized that she is a rebel!


  3. These days, I prefer soft-boiled rebels. I’ve mellowed. Although a good hard-boiled rebel can make for a fun read once in a while, and certainly good to watch on the news from time to time.


  4. How to get an amateur convincingly into the middle of a murder investigation is certainly a challenge for a writer! You’re right, it takes a rebel. I like all kinds of rebel sleuths, but gravitate towards the softer kind.


  5. Hi all, sorry for the delay in responding. I’m stealing a minute from the day job in Miami. If they catch me, I’m toast! Guess in my own way, I’m a rebel. Looks like we are all on the same page that the amature needs to be a bit of a rebel to go against the status quo. Interesting Theresa, that you have softened your rebels, I think sometimes the violent times we live in requires that. I don’t mind edgy, but I want limits. Does that make us all rebels from the current status quo?


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