Thursday, February 9, 2012

DNA #8

In honor of Valentine's Day, this week in DNA we're looking at the magic of sidekicks in mysteries. Here's what our detectives have to say about it.

Laura Ellen: What would Sherlock be without Watson? Frank Hardy without his brother, Joe? Nancy Drew without her friends Ned, George and Bess? Every good sleuth needs an assistant. But why exactly?
An assistant can push your sleuth to take a risk, to look at something or someone in a different way, to make the right decision . . . or a wrong one. Assistants or sidekicks or partners in crime—whatever you call them—they are an author's best tool for pushing plot forward while deepening character.

I love the sleuth/assistant relationships where there is a lot of bantering going on between the two, where each character brings out the best and the worst in each other, highlighting each other's strengths and weaknesses, at each other's throats more often than at peace—but are also always on the same page when it counts. And because I love me some romance with my mystery, my sleuths and their assistants are almost always boyfriend and girlfriend—even if they don' know it yet. That extra tap-dancing that comes into play when the heart is involved adds an extra layer of tension that I just love writing.

Elisa Ludwig: Our characters, just like people in real life, get by with a little help from their friends. In Pretty Crooked, Willa conducts most of her covert activities on her own, but when her mom starts acting strangely, she does get some assistance from her best friend Cherise. In one particular scene, they set out to tail Willa’s mom, and for me, this was one of the most fun moments in the book.

For one thing, the dialogue flowed really easily between these two characters, with Cherise
drawing some conclusions that Willa just doesn’t want to hear. For another, it was an opportunity to bring it back to the teen experience—Willa is doing a lot of grown up (and illegal) things in this book but when she’s with Cherise she’s undoubtedly a 15 year-old girl. Finally, your protagonist simply can’t figure everything out on their own, so having a sidekick there can really take the burden off of them and advance the fact-finding process.

Diana Renn: I love a strong, independent sleuth, but that doesn't always translate to excitement on the page. A sleuth working on her own too long means too much time in her head, or voicing rhetorical questions to an empty room, or Googling stuff (yawn). Talking through clues and and strategizing with a sidekick is way more interesting, and inevitably leads to action . . . if a plan is dreamed up, it must be acted upon! I love sidekicks so much I actually have two of them in Tokyo Heist, one in Seattle and one in Japan, since my main character has to travel. Sidekicks can be sounding boards, skilled experts, love interests, best friends, occasional rivals, comic relief . . . the possibilities are endless.

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