"Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.
In A Death in the Family, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.
Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.
Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case."
"Every author wants to capture the interest of the reader and one of the best ways to do this is by using effective and efficient characterization. Your story will only succeed if the people in it fascinate, anger, please, tickle or otherwise affect the reader. You have to have believable, interesting characters. Readers want to become involved with the characters they read about. To make your readers feel something for your character, you must make your character a specific person—you must strike a chord on some emotion you know to be universal; such as fear, love, revenge, ambition, insecurity, etc. Work to give your readers someone they can identify with. To efficiently and effectively describe your character, pick out useful characteristics from the following list. And one last bit of advice when describing your character; pick out only a few things, not everything:
Vocabulary. Does she use a lot of long words? Professional jargon? Use certain words often?
Style of speech. Does she speak with authority, or sound tentative? Does he control others?
Tone. What does his voice sound like? Is it melodious? Harsh?
Diction. Does he speak clearly or mumble? Have an accent?
Clothing. Is he rich or poor by the clothes he wears? Careless about appearance? Have poor taste? Look comfortable?
Jewelry. Does he wear an expensive watch? Have diamonds or other gems? Wear a cross? School ring?
Grooming. Does she wear too much makeup? Does he glow with good health? Are her nails bitten down?
General appearance. Does he slump or sit up straight? Smile a lot? Gesture often? Have a pimple?
In addition to the above list, here are some things you should keep in mind when writing about your character:
Avoid stereotypes. Don’t have a girl that is too pretty, a man too handsome, a villain too completely evil, or a politician too corrupt. People should have good points and bad.
If you mention something when characterizing, make sure you choose wisely. If you mention an empty whiskey bottle in the drawer, the reader is going to wonder if the person is a drunk. Don’t include something just for the sake of listing things. Make sure the item has something to do with the person or don’t include it.
Make sure characters are credible. Don’t have a mousy person rush into a burning building to save someone. Remember that characters must act credibly, and not just before the author needs them to act a certain way. Credible characters act out of their own nature, not the author’s plot needs.
Know your character. Before you start writing, sit down and write a 3-5 page biography for each main character. It’s essential for the writer to know where his character was born, what his goals are, what his fears are, how he feels about his mother, his father, etc. It’s extra work, but will actually save time and allow you to create real flesh and blood characters.
Remember motivation. If Kevin is determined to solve a bank robbery, he must have a good reason, other than he’d like to solve a mystery. Also, if he is going to put his life in danger, he’d better have a good reason for doing so. Maybe he’s trying to prove to himself or someone else that he is brave, smart, etc. Or maybe someone he loves was hurt badly when the bank was robbed. Maybe he acted like a coward when he was there as the bank was being robbed and needs to redeem himself. Maybe in his past he made a fool of himself and wants to show he has changed. Make sure Kevin gains something by solving the crime. Get into the skin of every character and ask yourself what the character is feeling, right now. Is he scared? Happy? Nervous? Think of how this particular character would act, then write.
Give your characters a life outside the confines of the story. Many characters seem to have no history, no future and nothing on their minds except the business of the story. You must create characters who seem to have a full life, who go places and do things even when we are not reading about them. This is done with a few well-placed details.
When your character goes to a movie, maybe write; “It reminded him of a movie he had seen two years ago when he and Janet were going steady.”
If he pulls a jack knife out of his pocket, you could say, “It was a gift from his cousin.” All of these things show your character was alive two years ago, going to movies, having girlfriends, that he has a cousin, and family. It has nothing to do with the story, but a lot to do with your character and everything to do with his life."
Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.
Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith. Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven; Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints.
Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.
Here are 3 links where A Death in the Family can be purchased online.