Developing characters – how far to go?

I’m in the middle of editing my fourth novel in the Pitkirtly mystery series, and I just wonder how far I can go in developing the characters. I don’t want them to change beyond recognition (and see also ‘A Reformed Character’ which rehearses some of my own views on this before coming down firmly on both sides of the fence!), but it’s good to be able at least to illustrate different sides of people in different situations.

In ‘Death at the Happiness Club’ I have slightly surprised myself by choosing to highlight aspects of Maisie Sue MacPherson and Inspector Smith, both of whom, I think it’s fair to say, started life as rather stereotypical characters. I’ve become more interested in them in the course of writing the series, and although I will never tire of chronicling the ups and downs of the rather strange relationship between Christopher and Amaryllis, it’s good to be able to explore facets of people who are different from either of them.

Just as in real life I am particularly guilty of instinctively disliking someone about whom I know very little, I do take a dislike to some of my fictional characters too. And as in real life, I often find this initial reaction to be unfair. So Maisie Sue, whom I’ve been rather unkind to, has a turn in the spotlight this time, and Inspector Smith is seen to be almost human for a while.

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