Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Gadget and Skill That Helps My Protagonist

By Tracy Kiely

When I read today’s blog topic, I thought halleluiah! Finally, a topic almost custom made for my protagonist, Elizabeth Parker. Elizabeth is an average young woman in her late twenties. She is stuck in a dull job overseen by an obnoxious boss. She has had a string of lousy boyfriends, but is finally dating an actual Nice Guy. The down side of this, however, is that she is forced to listen as her smug older sister constantly reminds her that her biological clock is about to stop ticking. Oh, and she’s been involved in a few murder investigations, and has actually been instrumental in discovering the killer.

So, as I said. Pretty average.

Now, of course, I can hear you screaming at your computer screen that the average woman could hardly unmask a killer without some specialized talent or gadget. Correct you are; which is why Elizabeth is lucky to own an invisibility cloak. Handed down to her from her father, this cloak enables the wearer to move about completely unnoticed by those around her. This is especially handy when she had to sneak by the Deatheaters, those devilish souls who want to restore power to He Who Shall Not Be Named.

Oh, no, wait. That’s Harry Potter.

No, Elizabeth is able to solve the crimes she stumbles upon due to her remarkable ability to read minds. Although this talent has landed her the label of “freak” among many in the small southern town where she lives, she has learned to embrace her talent. The only minds she can’t read are, of course, the vampires who also inhabit her town.

Crap. That’s Sookie Stackhouse.

Right. Elizabeth Parker is a ghost. Sent back from Heaven she can move about mortals, either taking human form or remaining invisible. This enables her to hear snippets of conversation that she would otherwise not be privy to.

Nope. That’s Carolyn Hart’s new series.

Yeah. So, here’s the truth.

She’s got nothing.


Unless a caustic wit, humidity-induced hair frizz, or a penchant for quoting Jane Austen counts, Elizabeth doesn’t have a special skill set or gadget that helps her solve the murders she happens upon. And, to be fair, that’s how I want her.

When I set out writing this series, I wanted Elizabeth to be like most of the protagonists in Hitchcock’s movies, i.e., “the average man caught in extraordinary circumstances.” I wanted to write about someone that I might know. Mysteries – especially cozies – are a means to escape the real world for a while. They take us to a place where we know, no matter how bad it might get, that justice will prevail. For all the violence, it’s a safe place to be; at times much safer than the real world.

For me, I prefer taking these mental journeys with a friend, and so I created Elizabeth to be someone who I might hang out with were she real. She does not have special skills or gadgets because most real people don’t. Through Elizabeth, the reader can pretend (for a while) that they too might be able to step in and cleverly solve the crime that has the police stumped.

And, besides, I wasn’t clever enough to come up with the idea of a cloak, telepathic mind, or a visiting specter.


Shane Gericke said...

I hear humidified hair frizz can be deadly in the right hands ... er, head!

Nice post, Tracy. I really like that you made her regular-person, not someone with super spidey strength. Super powers seem to be cheating, somehow.

TracyK said...

Thanks Shane! Funny enough (well, funny in a sad pathetic kind of way) I did at one time toy with the idea of a woman who had a power of sorts. She would see a certain vision before a death occurred. A bull mastiff, to be precise. My agents still bursts into hysterical laughter when she remembers it.

Meredith Cole said...

But Tracy--she does have something very special. The complete novels of Jane Austen! Clever and heavy (if a weapon is called for when she's sleuthing around).

I agree with Shane--normal was definitely the way to go.

TracyK said...

True, should her upper body skills be lacking in using the books as a weapon, she could always read the criminal an overly analytical analysis of her work and bore them to death!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Love the post! The average woman is pretty extraordinary on her own.