Pick a character, any character – by Michael Wood

I had the story for Outside Looking In long before my first novel, For Reasons Unknown, was published. However, I didn’t want to write a follow-up in case my protagonist, DCI Matilda Darke, never saw the light of day. Thankfully, she did.

Outside Looking InAs soon as I signed my contract for book one I wasted no time in starting book two. The first draft went well. I researched, I plotted, I wrote, and I loved where the characters were going. Just as For Reasons Unknown was published I finished writing Outside Looking In. It was time to relax, take a step back from writing for a while before tackling a second draft.

Then the comments and the reviews for book one started coming in.

The reviews were very positive and I was thrilled the crime fiction community were welcoming Matilda and me into their lives. One aspect I wasn’t expecting was for people to tell me who their favourite character was, especially so soon into a series. To write Matilda, I needed to get into her head; to experience her thoughts and feelings. I had to understand loss and grief and use my own first-hand experience with panic attacks to figure out how her day-to-day life was going to play out. As such, she will always occupy a special place in my heart. Of course, as an avid crime fan, I know that the readers’ favourite character isn’t always the same as the author’s. Gossip lover and keeper of the snack drawer DS Sian Mills is a strong contender, as is Matilda’s best friend, pathologist Adele Kean.

As a reader, I enjoy getting to know the personal lives of supporting characters. DS Edgar Wield from Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series is a brilliantly drawn character. In the earlier novels he is difficult to get to know, private, quiet, an enigma, but over the twenty-three novels he slowly emerges. As a lifelong fan of Ian Rankin I have enjoyed watching Siobhan Clarke flourish from a DC into a DI and step out of Rebus’s shadow (although not too far). Of the newer crime fiction series Sarah Hilary has created a wonderful supporting character in DS Noah Jake. We are only three books into this series and I am looking forward to discovering more about Noah as much as I am the protagonist, DI Marnie Rome.

When I sat down to write the second draft of Outside Looking In, I started to worry for my supporting characters. Did they need more of a role? Should they take their share in the limelight and rub shoulders with DCI Matilda Darke? A tweet from a reader quickly made my mind up. She described Matilda as a ‘wonderfully created and well-rounded character’ and ended her message by saying it was nice I had created such warm and compassionate allies for her. That’s when I knew I was doing the right thing. Matilda doesn’t have to be the clear favourite. As long as she has the love and support of the secondary characters then she will have a place in the readers’ hearts.

Outside Looking In wasn’t easy to write (no book should be) but I have enjoyed taking these characters on another journey. So, whether your favourite is determined Matilda, motherly Sian, sympathetic Adele, or even fun-loving Rory Fleming, I hope you enjoy my second book, and if you have a comment, don’t keep it to yourself – it may shape book three.


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