When Characters Sneak In

Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not one of those authors whose characters run the show. The ones who sit down to write an action scene, but end up writing a sex scene because their characters demand it. So many people say this that I feel like I’m missing out, but my own writing process is far more prosaic – I’m the author, and I know exactly what my characters are going to do, because I’m the one with the pen in my hand. On occasion, however, I do have characters who sneak up on me. Bit players who become larger players, gaining page time and backstory because they’re so damn entertaining.

My new novel Unbreakable (out tomorrow via the Bold Strokes site) features one such character. The book was supposed to be a double-header, a standard, dual point of view story that I almost immediately realised wouldn’t work. While Grace and Elin’s half of the plot was clearly the focus, I knew the story needed another element, something to ramp up the tension and keep the pace kicking along. Enter Safia Faris, a Detective Sergeant tasked to investigate a seemingly simple murder, who gets pulled into a case that’s anything but simple.

Initially conceived as a tertiary role, Safia stole into the story proper. Her scenes, particularly those featuring her police partner Suds, and her girlfriend Kami, provide an opportunity for some much-needed light relief, while her character gives me the chance to play with parallel timelines where the reader knows a hell of a lot more than she does, because they’re privy to what’s going on between Grace and Elin. This was something I’d never done before, and keeping Safia one step behind my other two leading ladies, without making her seem daft, was a challenge I relished. Far from being a minor concern, her character and her investigation became a fully fledged part of the novel, with her methodical unpicking of the clues and piecing together of the mystery allowing me to develop her background and her personal life.

Looking back at how Unbreakable came about, Safia was far too polite to demand more page time. She didn’t strut into the novel with a list of scenes clutched in her fist, and kick someone else off the page. She earned her place by creeping in beneath my radar, and by having courage, perseverance, a sweet nature, a loving girlfriend, a stupid dog, and a daft mate. I often say my leading ladies are a joy to write, but there’s something even more joyful about finding one you never intended.

Unbreakable will be released October 1st via the Bold Strokes Books website, and October 12th everywhere else. An audio version is currently being recorded and will be hopefully be out hot on the heels of the print release.

About Cari Hunter

Cari Hunter is the author of "Snowbound", "Desolation Point" and "Tumbledown", "Alias", "Breathe", and the Dark Peak series of crime thrillers - "No Good Reason", "Cold to the Touch", and "A Quiet Death" - all published by Bold Strokes Books. Her new novel "Unbreakable" is now available to buy.
This entry was posted in Novels, Unbreakable and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to When Characters Sneak In

  1. Gaby says:

    Fantastic book, well done, Cari!

    • Cari Hunter says:

      Ahh! How much of it did you read peeking through your fingers? 😉 I know you’re not one for blood and guts and it is a difficult read in places, but I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it.

      • Gaby says:

        It was not as traumatic as reading the Dark Peak series, you are either losing your touch or I’m getting used to the gore 😂😂 probably the latter 😂😂

        • Cari Hunter says:

          LOL. I think this one has more of a sustained sense of threat/stress running through it rather than it being explicitly violent. I should hope that, after nine books, no one is reading my stuff expecting a walk in a flowery meadow (though some reviews do seem to be expecting more of a romance than they’re ever going to get from me. WHY?!)

  2. Cari,
    I was almost afraid to read this post as I am currently about halfway through the book, and am loving every minute of it. I’m planning on finishing it over the weekend. Don’t ask me how I ever put the story down, I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy. So far, I am thrilled with the plot and the characters, especially Grace, whom I obviously identify with. (You and I both, lol) I know something’s coming that will shock the living %*#! out of me. Thank you again for the lovely inscription and of course the book!
    Brooklyn Graham

    • Cari Hunter says:

      Ooh I’d never post spoilers. Certainly not for this book. Avoid reviews like the plague until you’ve finished it is my advice. I love seeing who people are rooting for/identifying with – they’ve got a choice of three in here, unless they’re Team Suds or Team Kami 🙂
      And you’re welcome, congrats again on being my lucky third.

  3. Safia Faris was the character we needed to slow our heart rates down from time to time. She and Suds were a great pairing and yes, I loved knowing more than the detectives thanks to our inside track with Grace and Elin. Safia and Kami’s scenes together were the icing for me in this thriller. It’s nice to see a level headed investigator with a life and love outside of their work. Glad she snuck onto your pages.

    • Cari Hunter says:

      Yes! All of this, absolutely. I adored writing her. She really was supposed to be an incidental but the more I got into her side of the investigation the bigger a role it played, and I think the balance is a good one with the payoff at the end when everything collides. My editor left me a really insightful note on the manuscript when she returned it to me:

      “It was a smart choice to make the detective gay and to give us all those scenes with her wife. It accomplished two things: it gave us some levity and moments of connection in what is otherwise a very dark and emotionally wrought story, and it allowed you to bring a lesbian element to a story that doesn’t have (or need) a lot of sexual/romantic content.”

      I didn’t think about it like that at the time, it just seemed natural to include Safia’s home life as a balm to the stress, but she hit the nail on the head in terms of how Saf works so well for the story.

  4. Annmaree ofOz says:

    I loved the addition of Safia and Kami, it really helped hearten things during rough times, and their heritage was also really beautiful.

    I half wonder if we’ll get a book of Safiya’s adventures in policing (working title? lol!!) but knowing what you put your characters through, maybe not! *wraps her in cotton wool where you can’t touch her* >snort<

    • Cari Hunter says:

      LOL. I have toyed very seriously with the idea of a prequel of sorts for Safia and Kami because I adored writing both characters, but I’d be worried about stepping on toes regarding cultural/religious sensitivities and I’m not keen to set an entire story in London. This is definitely not the last we’ve heard from Saf, though. Jo Shaw, the detective with a cameo in the latter stages, is actually the lead in the story I’m writing at the moment (the story I abandoned to write Unbreakable) and she’s now good mates with Saf so… 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.