Danger! Danger! Putting your MC in peril
18 Tuesday Oct 2011
There is a convention in crime and forensic fiction to put the main character in personal peril. I understand why it is done: it engages the reader and puts the MC in the middle of the action even when, realistically, they are in the periphery of a case. The problem is that although it might engage other readers, it makes me snap out of the story. I don’t buy it.
How do you break a well-established convention? I wanted to write a crime (sort of) story where the main character stays in the periphery and the police does all their stuff in their normal way. It works in Agatha Christy’s novels but her police force is bumbling and unobservant compared to her MCs. Inspector Japp, even on his best day, doesn’t see or understand the significance of half the things that Poirot observes.
My MC, Anna, is doing her own investigation and coming to some interesting conclusions. Everything she does is done separately from the police’s very competent investigation. Getting the two strands to link together without the police letting my MC in on their business or putting her in danger is proving tricky. Not impossible, just tricky.
That’s the joy of story telling. There are a lot of conventions for any type of fiction and breaking a significant one could make your story less saleable. But you always have the option to go your own way and to tell the story the way you want to. So I’m keeping Anna safe. For now.