Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sidekicks, The Buddy System for Sleuths

Not necessary, but supplying your sleuth with a sidekick can have benefits. Many famous detectives had sidekicks with some duos being nearly inseparable.  Mention Sherlock Holmes and John Watson comes to mind. Sgt. Joe Friday always had Office Bill Gannon at his side. Adrian Monk kept his assistant near.

Does your sleuth need a buddy? Contemplate this.

Everybody needs a sounding board. Somebody to talk to.  A confidant. Ultimately your detective will want somebody to talk to and try out ideas.  The sidekick is this guy.

  • Alternate view point.  Your sleuth spouts his latest theory of the killer’s method, and the sidekick chimes, “Yes, but what if…” The sleuth says black, and sidekick says could be white.  Up or down?  High or low?  Opposite view points keep the possibilities open.
  • Ever need your brain picked?  A good sidekick will ask questions.  Need further explanations. Push for exemplification. It keeps the story going, but the real effect is to keep your readers informed.
  • Scenes can flow better with two people.  Yes, a scene can be a single character, just the sleuth, but toss in another character, the sidekick, and things go smoothly.  They can talk and argue and discuss the clues.  He can watch your sleuth’s back. Do some grunt work. And just be there for support.
  • Off camera details. The sidekick loves errands (maybe) and can take care of detail too mundane for the detective and uninteresting for the reader.  Time passes and the sidekick returns with the information, missing evidence, a sudden revelation to keep the plot moving. Don’t even have to go into great detail how he did it.

What do you need for a great sleuth-sidekick combo? Chemistry.  Detective soulmates.  Your duo needs to complement each other. Balancing out the sleuth’s personality. If he is cold and calculating, the sidekick is warm and candid. A moody, stuffy sleuth needs a steady, laid-back sidekick. Genius thinker vs everyday guy.  Rude, arrogant needs polite, humble. Opposites can attract. Balance, balance, balance. This should not be a formula but return to the idea of soulmates in solving crimes.

Other features to consider about the sidekick

  • Loyal to the sleuth.
  • Supporting the cause of solving the crime.
  • When things get tough, the sidekick hangs in there.
  • The sleuth’s number one cheerleader.

Some Famous Detective Teams
Sherlock Holmes — John Watson
Hercule Poirot —  Arthur Hastings
Martin Beck — Gunvald Larsson
Master Li — Number Ten Ox
Sister Fidelma — Brother Eadulf
Hildegarde Withers — Inspector Oscar Pipe
Spenser — Hawk
Perry Mason — Della Street, Paul Drake
Sgt. Joe Friday — Officer Bill Gannon
Green Hornet — Kato (Crimefighter)
Batman — Robin (Detective Comics)
Lord Peter Wimsey — Mervyn Bunter
Albert Campion — Magersfontein Lugg
Precious Ramotswe — Grace Makutsi
Adrian Monk — Sharona Fleming, later Natalie Teeger
Charlie Chan — Number One Son
Nero Wolfe — Archie Goodwin
Inspector Darko Dawson — Philip Chikata
Inspector Morse — Sergeant Lewis
Inspector Thomas Lynley — Sergeant Barbara Havers
Dave Robicheaux — Clete Purcel
DI Jimmy Perez — DS Alison McIntosh

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Motive, the Glue that Holds Together the Murder Mystery

US law typically requires Motive, Means, and Opportunity to be demonstrated to a jury in a criminal trial.  As mystery writers, our job is to show these three things when finding the killer in our who-dun-its. Motive is a critical key to the story.

“The devil made me do it!” won’t hold up. The killer needs a good reason to snuff out the life of another character. Secrets drive motive; motive drives lies.

Sit back, watch your favorite murder mystery. Important to the story is collecting evidence—important here is the suspects’ stories.  The sleuth interviews, snoops, and investigates the murder to find one important element. The big WHY.

Motive becomes part of the backstory, the connection between the victim and killer. Other suspects secrets and lies matter too.  The motive is the glue that holds together the murder mystery storyline.

Without further ado, the Master List of Motives.

Hidden secret/Discovery
Righting a wrong
Class Conflict
Other Felony
Protect Someone
Crime of Passion
Psychosis/Mental Disorder
International Intrigue/Spy

Monday, May 8, 2017

Cover Reveal: Desperate Knight by Keith W. Willis

Book 2 in the Knights of Kilbourne series
by award-winning fantasy/romance author
Keith W. Willis

Coming summer 2017 from Champagne Books

No time… No plan… No options…
No one said saving the world would be easy.

Morgan McRobbie and Lady Marissa duBerry swing back into swashbuckling action, facing old enemies, new threats, and a diabolical conspiracy. Not to mention a more personal battle, one with hearts and pride at stake.

As the pair escorts Prince Robert to the dwarf king’s court, a fiendish scheme is unfolding, intended to hurl men and dwarves into a devastating war. Morgan ends up sidetracked by a kidnapped dwarf and a centuries-old feud, while a mysterious wizard’s revelations shake Marissa to her core, throwing into question everything she thought she knew about her past and future. And the advent of a rival for Marissa’s affections threatens any hope of a happy ending—if they survive.

Once again the desperate knight and indomitable damsel must hazard everything on a single throw of the dice, gambling on untested allies and unimagined weapons to save their world. And the odds have never been worse.  


Praise for TRAITOR KNIGHT (Book 1 of Knights of Kilbourne)

“…well-told story with a witty heroine, a noble-yet-flawed hero, and a colorful set of secondary characters. And a dragon! Let's not forget the dragon!” –Tegan Wren, author of Inconceivable

“…a witty and action-packed page-turner that takes the classic fantasy land and adds depth, character, romance and political intrigue to brilliant effect.”  -- SFF World

“I recommend Traitor Knight to anyone looking for a good fantasy with just a dash of romance.” – Long & Short Reviews


Keith W. Willis graduated (long ago) with a degree in English Lit from Berry College, Georgia. He now lives in the scenic Hudson Valley/Adirondack region of NY with his wife Patty. Keith is certain those rumbling noises attributed to Henry Hudson's crew are really just the dragons grumbling. He began writing seriously in 2008, when the voices in his head got too annoying to ignore. When he’s not making up stories he manages a group of database content editors at a global information technology firm. TRAITOR KNIGHT (Champagne Books) is his first published novel, and has won awards for both fantasy and romance. The second book in the Knights of Kilbourne series, DESPERATE KNIGHT, is slated for a summer 2017 release.

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