Though February is a month for love, we’re crime writers so we’re going to have a different discussion. It’s been said that there are three motives for murder: love, revenge and greed. Love can manifest itself in many ways, and we’re going to talk about that these coming Wednesdays. First up, let’s talk about obsession.
Wickeds, obsession is defined as “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind”. This can certainly be a motive for crime, but it can also motivate characters. Do your main characters have obsessions? Do they drive them, or get in their way?
Jessie: I love this take on love! I guess that is why am attracted to crime writing rather than romance! As to obsession, I would say my protagonist Beryl might well be accused of that sort of emotion when it comes to anything involving speed. In her case I would say a thirst for adventure and adrenaline drive her.
Barb: Obsessed is a word we use easily nowadays. “I’m obsessed with that leather jacket.” “I’m obsessed with that streaming show.” “I’m obsessed with that video of my cousin.” Here’s a dialog from my granddaughter’s third Christmas:
Viola: I am possessed with the gifts.
My son, her dad: Do you mean possessed or obsessed?
Viola: Yes, that one.
I’d guess there are several things Julia might say she is obsessed with. The primary one is solving mysteries. After ten books and five novellas, most of Julia’s friends and family don’t try to stop her. They simply acknowledge it and nod knowingly as she digs into a case.
Edith/Maddie: Mac Almeida in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries is seriously obsessed with neatness, keeping things tidy, following check lists, and generally being borderline compulsive about order. While she can be a bit of a pain about it, it’s an obsession that serves her well in solving crimes. She has a drive to put things right, which includes tying up all the loose ends in an investigation.
Liz: I think it’s pretty obvious that Maddie James in the Cat Cafe Mysteries is obsessed with cats and cat rescue – which gets her into trouble sometimes. Lots of dead bodies associated with cats…but she’s always able to solve the crimes and save the cats.
Julie: I love these character insights! Speed, neatness, cats and solving mysteries. What a perfect mix. Lilly Jayne is a master gardener, but even more than her gardens she’s obsessed with fixing things if it is within her power, which it usually is. What’s fun about her is that she’ll do what needs to be done, from guerilla gardening to clandestinely supporting individuals and small businesses to using her clout to sway a committee.
Sherry: Viola is so funny, Barb! And Julie, I’ve always loved the guerilla gardening Lilly and her friends do! Chloe is obsessed with water sports born from a tragic incident when she was ten. That incident also makes her run every day to stay in shape because she doesn’t want to feel as vulnerable as she did then. Chloe is also dogged about fixing other people’s problems which often leads to trouble.
Readers, how do you feel about character obsessions–do they add to your enjoyment? How about you, do you have any obsessions? Fair warning, one of us may use it in a book!
I love these. I love when characters have minor flaws, makes them more human, more three dimensional.
Minor flaws, tics, obsessions. They do add so much to a character, don’t they? As a writer, they are fun to discover as well.
Great topic! I admit that I have a bit of OCD. It has mellowed some as I’ve gotten old mainly because I don’t have the energy to keep everything as neat as I used to. However, I still feel compelled to try. It’s a nuisance. Like Dru, I like characters that have obsessions as long as they don’t overwhelm their actions.
I agree, obsessions need to fuel the character, but they can’t overwhelm them. A fine balance.
The OCD juxtaposed over someone’s interest in someone could definitely create some interesting dynamics. Also, the interpretation of a person’s obsession can be all wrong. Beware the eye of the beholder! What an interesting topic to play with.
So true about interpretation–and what fun to play with as a crime writer. Our job is to misdirect, and that could help!
Character obsessions are such fun! They’re also a great way to let a reader know when something is amiss in the character’s world. Do I have any? Of course, I’m obsessed with reading and when it’s a new to me series, no matter where I meet the story, I go back to book 1 and start from there. I get such a charge out of picking up on the foreshadowed events coming to fruition in later books. It’s fun!
I do agree that obsessions are a great way to let readers know something’s amiss. I love that you go back and read book 1. I will usually meet the series where I find it, and then start from the beginning. Once I start a new series, I read it through. Which explains my Hamish Macbeth January that is bleeding into February.
I think it’s great to have characters with obsessions. The Disney show Andor uses a supporting character’s obsession to really help propel the story forward.
I agree! I don’t know Andor, but will look for it.
Like everything else, obsession can be a fun quirk or a strong personality trait (and all the examples you have given fall into these camps) or they can be annoying things that make a book hard to get through. It’s all in the balance and not becoming obsessed with your character’s obsessions.
Agreed. Obsessions need to feel organic and not added on. A tough balance.
not sure if I would call it an obsession but I never fell out of love with the guy who flirted back with me in high school and lead me on without & left me no explanation from him. I’ve always loved him and that won’t change. He’s my obsession LOL.
As for characters obsessions well they can add or they can be annoying to the story line but either way I like to read about them.
I suspect we all have that “what happened there” obsession in our past. At least I do!
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