Is the tale wagging the dog?
Don’t you just love quantum physics? All those possibilities, spinning endlessly until somebody bothers to look at them at which point they plump for their (positive) physical reality of choice – while somewhere out there in the universe exactly the (negative) opposite choice happens! Oh, the sheer entanglement of it all! Which may explain some of the character flips my main German detective has gone through in the past years. Or maybe not. Depending on your positive or negative opinion of the whole shebang. Or Big Bang. Never mind.
And while we’re on the subject of quantum physics, have you ever wondered why Schroedinger put a cat in a box to prove his point? Well, think about it. What dog would sit quietly in a box long enough for you to philosophise about the possibility at any given moment of it being dead or alive? You’d know the dog was damn well alive ‘cos he’d be whining and barking his head off in that ‘ok-this-box-is-cool-but-hey-guys-we’re-a-pack-here-and-I-wanna-be-out-there-with-yoouuuuu’ kinda way. Cats, on the other hand, are simply Masters of the Universe.
Multiple character universes
Since I started this book, my German detective – like Bilbo Baggins – has been there and back again in terms of marital status changes so often he’ll be meeting himself coming back soon. Like the six wives of Henry VIII – died, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded survived – he’s been married, divorced, widowed and now he’s married again, but his wife’s in a coma. I kid you not! Serious plot point here, people, so stop sniggering!
Harking back to my earlier post about PD James’s BBC4 interview with Mark Lawson, I note that the wonderful Baroness James of Holland Park decided – with some callousness, as she admitted herself (and it must be said, not without some obvious glee) – to ‘kill off’ detective Adam Dalgleish’s wife in her first novel because she might become too interested in his family and lose sight of the story. In fact, poor old Adam remains single (although not unattached) until the final novel in the series, A Private Patient, published in 2008. I think perhaps the good old lady felt she owed him after all that time (her first Dalgleish book was Cover Her Face published in 1962).
The problem is that detective novels have changed since PD James started writing back in the 1960s. These days it can be tough avoiding those grieving widow(er)/ alcoholic/ workaholic maverick cop tropes.
So how do you sort it so you don’t end up with a blindingly obvious stereotype? I have no definitive answer to that question – if anyone has, please let me know – but I am a great believer in personal choices. Allowing my characters to make choices personal to them, whether it be their favourite colour, drink, wallpaper, or whatever, as well as reacting to events. As PD James said: think about their cultural and creative life, their interests outside work. Thus Morse has his opera, Dalgliesh his poetry, Harry Bosch his jazz, and Kay Scarpetta her gourmet Italian food.
So what are my guy’s interests? Hmmm … let me think! Why, that’s easy! Quantum physics and football, of course!