Today it is my stop on the Flash Point by Derek Thompson blog tour. I am delighted to be able to share with you a guest post by the author on character building. But first a little bit more about the book.
Meet Thomas Bladen. Smart, sardonic, and in mortal danger.
LONDON COMES UNDER ATTACK AND BLADEN’S LIFE IS FALLING APART.
As the security services scramble to deal with the aftermath of a coordinated terror attack, undercover operative Thomas Bladen is in deep trouble. His department is taken over by MI5, his girlfriend’s gone, and he’s “lost” a handgun during surveillance of a politician.
Then two of his senior colleagues disappear. Who’s taken them and why? Bladen’s search for answers is blocked at every turn. Is there a double agent in his team?
In a thrilling conclusion, Bladen must face his doubts and put his life at risk against forces whose allegiance is unclear. This is the reckoning.
If you like Mark Dawson, Rob Sinclair, Lee Child, or Vince Flynn you’ll enjoy these fast-paced thrillers.
THOMAS BLADEN SERIES
Book 1: STANDPOINT
Book 2: LINE OF SIGHT
Book 3: CAUSE & EFFECT
Book 4: SHADOW STATE
Book 5: FLASHPOINT
Flash Point is available to purchase from Amazon. (Please note that the link used is an affiliate link)
Character Building – when fictional people come to life.
Some book characters are not so much written as discovered. They’re like a stranger at a party who engages you in conversation, or a friend you get to know over time. Others appear, large as life on the page, fully formed with their own back-story and opinions. I once wrote a fantasy novel and during the long process I dreamt that a character spoke to me about another character. “Ask him what happened to his brother,” the first one said. I never knew he had a brother – I hadn’t written one for him! So I asked the second character and found out he’d injured his brother in a science experiment when they were children, which explained a lot. Weird science indeed!
Thomas Bladen, the lead in my Spy Chaser thriller series, brought along his own back-story. Some elements had a kind of logic to them. He said he was from Yorkshire (I’d never been there up to that point) and I knew his age, so that placed part of his childhood during the 1984 – 1985 UK Miners’ Strike. A specific incident some time later, where he dealt with a perceived injustice, became a defining moment for him and gave the reader an insight into his psyche. It also helped me understand his motivations and responses as an adult. Hint: even Galahad carried a sword.
When Standpoint, the first book in the series, takes place, Thomas has been in London for years and failed to get a job as a newspaper photographer. A civil service job seems like an easy option, until his habit of taking in a camera to capture photos of London’s skyline catches the attention of someone on the top floor – the Director General of the Surveillance Support Unit. A keen interest in justice and cameras make Thomas a natural fit for the SSU, although opportunities in life rarely turn out how we expect…
There is a character development arc across the series for Thomas, Miranda and Karl – the three main players. Sometimes it’s revealed in small ways, or by peeling back layers of the past.
Karl, for example, is pretty jocular at the beginning, especially when he wants to win Thomas over or get the measure of him. As the series unfolds, we learn that Karl hides a fractured family life, growing up in Belfast, which leads to unexpected consequences in at least one book. Thanks to time served in the Armed Forces, he is more of a pragmatist than an idealist and this is evident more and more as the series progresses.
Thomas enters Karl’s murky world of counter-intelligence by degrees and it gradually changes him. How could it not? In Standpoint he is reticent about picking up a gun (again…) but by the time we get to Flashpoint he’s a seasoned marksman in every sense, and his eyes have been opened to a world of blended grey.
Thomas and Miranda’s relationship has proved popular with some readers, and that also has its own trajectory. The tension of ‘Will they? / Won’t they?’ must be resolved eventually. Every promise has to be delivered on or broken.
There’s a well-known phrase that sums up the challenges of writing a series and including character development: the same but different. Take James Bond, for example. Different challenges and different villains, but Mr Bond is essentially the same every time. Not so for Thomas Bladen. Every choice he makes has a consequence, which sometimes bears fruit in the next book. It’s not mandatory to learn from it every time – ask any teenager! Like Oscar Wilde said: experience is the name we give our mistakes.
Miranda finds out late about Thomas’s double-life, but she has also secrets of her own. Over successive books we see her develop as a complex and sometimes conflicted person, torn between family loyalties and Thomas. By Flashpoint she is a formidable ally and equally capable of calling the shots.
Great ways to show character development over a novel or series:
- Isolate your hero / heroine or leave them out of their depth.
- Have them encounter similar situations to see how their response changes.
- Threaten them and those around them.
- Make the challenges harder and with more at stake.
- Give them a choice between two evils.
Thomas, Miranda, Karl and the other recurring characters in the Spy Chaser series have been in my life for several years now. But they still manage to surprise me. I hope they surprise you too this time!
Derek Thompson grew up in London and started writing fiction in his teens. After spending a year in the US, he returned to London and subsequently moved to the West Country.
He wrote a commissioned piece for The Guardian in 2008 and entered the world of freelance writing in 2009. His short fiction has featured in both British and American anthologies, and can be found online. He has also written comedy material for live performance and radio.
His love of film noir and thrillers began with The Big Sleep, and has never left him. Much of his fiction involves death, loss or secrets. As the saying goes: write about what you know.
He writes about Thomas Bladen and his role in the Surveillance Support Unit.