Saturday, May 26, 2007

Aspirational Characters

Mary Jane Maffini (Guest Blogger)

Mary Jane Maffini is a Canadian mystery writer, and a charter member of The Ladies Killing Circle.

Thank heavens Poe’s Daughters offered me this opportunity to be a guest blogger. I have been grappling with a problem, so why not confide in the people who read the blog? I have to get it off my chest somehow. You see, I’m being pressured by some would-be walk-on characters. They whisper sweet nothings into my ear. They are very seductive and they give new meaning to the word persistent.

You’d think I would have learned by now. There are already too many minor characters clomping around in my books. With all the inhabitants in three mystery series and a bunch of short stories, it’s like trying to organize Christmas dinner for your seven hundred best buddies.

Darn. Here comes one now. This guy’s a real pest. I’ve been trying to shake him for days. Give me a minute. I’ll get rid of him.


“Now listen, I keep telling you, I am not accepting new characters. Unless you’re willing to be murdered or arrested for bumping off someone. Or I suppose you could be a suspect with a sleazy reason to kill.”
“Come on, lady. I’m worth more than that.”
“Perhaps you can pump gas or something, if you’ll promise to stop bugging me. Here’s a deal: I may need somebody to deliver pizza in the book I’m working on now. Unfortunately, the hours are a bit irregular.”
“Pizza? Do I look like I would deliver pizza?”
“You don’t look like anything. You’re nothing more than an idle distraction. Speaking of pizza, you could be just a bit of indigestion.”
“You can do better than that. Give me a description. I’d like a fauxhawk, yeah, yeah, that’s good. Sandy or dark blond. I should be tall and fit. Kind of a cool skater look, but no hat. And I wouldn’t mind a Celtic tattoo. Those suckers are chick magnets.”
“Excuse me while I roll my eyes. I am not giving you a description, let alone a pointy hairdo and a tattoo. You do not get to decide that. If readers know what you look like, they’ll expect you to have a story purpose. You ever heard of relevance? There’s a finite amount of that stuff going around, you know.”
“And I’d have a flirty look in my eye. Some chicks find that relevant. How do you spell relevant anyway?”
“Look, you just get out of the delivery vehicle, say an orange Dodge Neon with a sign on top. You ring the bell. You hand over the pizza. You collect the cash, maybe a tip. You drive off. End of your story. Absolutely no flirty looks.”
“Chillax! It’s all good. But I do need a name.”
“No name. Absolutely. No. Name.”
“But names are like job security.”
“My point exactly.”
“Lady, I just need that first break. Having a name could make a major difference.”
“How about Figment? We could call you Figgy for short.”
“Whoa. Mean lady. Jayden maybe.”
“Get real. No no don’t get real! Once I give you a name, you have to have a bigger role. I bet you know that. You obviously have aspirations.”
“You got it. How about I drive a cool car to deliver the pizza. Maybe a classic Mustang? Sweet.”
“That won’t be happening. Now get out of my head. I have deadlines. I have a blog to write. It’s my first and I’m a bit nervous about it.”
“I could help with that. You want to write about cars? My dad used to take me to the shows.”
“You don’t have a dad. You’re a figment.”
“Sure I do. Hey! I could drive a classic Mustang Convertible, say a 1990. Cherry red. Or what about a ‘Vette’? Come back! Don’t go fold the laundry! You’re supposed to be writing. Okay! I’ll deliver the pizza. Whatever. I’ll drive the Neon, if it makes you happy. Just let me in. I need that first break. Helloooo…?”


All right, I’m back. So, you see my problem? These guys just wear you down. One time a burglar named Bunny Mayhew sweet-talked his way into a small role in one of my Camilla MacPhee mysteries. Now he thinks he’ll be pivotal in Law and Disorder, slotted for Fall 2008. Pivotal! Sheesh.

Anyway, if you come across my first Charlotte Adams book Organize Your Corpses, which is just off the press in May 2007, and if you like Charlotte, a professional organizer with a disastrous personal life, a passion for chocolate, rescued miniature dachshunds, and great shoes, you may want to read the second: Toying with Death (May 2008). You see, there’s Jayden, this cute guy with sandy fauxhawk who drives a Neon and delivers pizza to the sleuth and her sidekicks, of which there are already quite enough. But this guy has aspirations, although no tattoo as of today. Don’t pay too much attention to him. He’s not pivotal. There’ll be a lot of other stuff going on, including an out-of-control collection of plush toys. So far, they don’t have names.

Want to meet some other aspirational characters? Check out my books at

1 comment:

Lonnie Cruse said...

Um, Mary Jane, I hope you aren't talking to your characters outloud in public? Like writing at Starbucks while you sip a latte? Could get you arrested, THEN your characters could bug you 24/7 in the slammer.

Just a thought. Thanks for your wonderful guest blog. I can always use a good laugh!