Monday, February 2, 2009

Family Has Its Place by Morgan Mandel

When you're writing a mystery or novel, remember to include family. Here are some handy ways to take advantage of family members in mysteries:

  • Mob families, such as in the Godfather, can either turn a character toward or away from crime.
  • A threat to a family member - A character may perform extreme measures when the safety of any or all family members is in question.
  • The death of a family member - All sorts of possibilities with this one, from determining why the dear one died, to learning something from that person's past which solves a puzzle.
  • Following in the footsteps of a family member and becoming a law enforcement officer or some sort of solver of crimes is a positive way to include family.
  • Childhood abuse by a family member leading to a villain's psychosis - this one I've used in one of my novels not yet published.

I'm sure there are many other ways to use family when writing mysteries. Can you think of any? Does one of your mysteries include family in a way it moves the plot? Please share.

Morgan Mandel - For a Morgan two-for-one, hop on over to Double M, my daily blog at

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Hagelrat said...

Morgan, you won the Dana Fredsti Contest, i'll post results officially in the next day or two and if you email me your postal address I will ship it out asap. :)

Morgan Mandel said...

How cool is that! My pile of books will mutiply, but always happy to add one more for reading enjoyment.
Thanks a bunch.
Morgan Mandel

Mark Troy said...

In what is probably the best Travis McGee novel, "The Lonely Silver Rain," McGee discovers a daughter he didn't know about. Harry Bosch, likewise, discovers a daughter he didn't know about in one of his stories (the title escapes me right now.) Cassie Black in "Void Moon" has to rescue the daughter she gave up for adoption after being born while Cassie was in prison.

My sleuth in a novel that is making the rounds of publishers harbors anger and resentment against the father she believes abandoned her until she discovers he was murdered while trying to protect her.

Anonymous said...

Wow that's a memory Mark. Good job. umm Sharon McCone finds out about her bio parents and has major problems relating to her adoptive family. Then a younger brother killed himself. That was a whole book. Yup, you can always count on family for Drama. ha ha
Jo Ann Hernandez

Anonymous said...

You are coming up with some great pointers this week, Morgan. :-)

For this one, I can only concur. Families and other relationships provide insight about a character and turn them from a single cardboard cutout to someone with a 'real' life. I find myself writing ensemble casts in my books, including generations of families.

My male detective is in a broken marriage situation, complete with weekend visitation with his kids, yet still on the job. My female psychiatrist is a widow, but has a cat named Freud as her family. She also has been a surrogate family member to other characters in the two stories I've developed with her. Plus we do find out about her husband's death and what it means for her to be a widow.

My 1970s set YA is all about families in the midwest and the dangers that result when lies have been allowed to fester in a family.

Thanks for the opportunity to share about characters in families.


Dana Fredsti said...

I have not actually used family in my books yet. Well, my little brother actually shows up as a character in MFH (CHris Giamatti is completely based on my brother with no embellishments), but as far as having anyone related to the characters, not yet.