Sharjah: During the Thriller Festival, taking place as part of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), three women authors revealed how the they craft complex, yet likable characters.
Titled ‘Unveiling the Unknown: The Secrets Behind Writing Engaging Detective Protagonists’, the session was attended by aspiring writers eager to learn key trade secrets of the writing world.
Elaborating on the method she uses for characterisation, K. J. Howe, Author and Executive Director of ‘ThrillerFest,’ an annual conference of International Thriller Writers, said she focuses on creating a protagonist who has relatable human tendencies as well as being a strong character.
“While most crime fiction focuses on murder, I chose to write about kidnapping, with my protagonist as the lead kidnap negotiator who happens to also have Type 1 diabetes. I mixed in my medical writing background into my story and wanted to show the world that people with chronic illness can also be good at their job. Most protagonists in books are healthy, but mine is not, and yet she is an ace negotiator,” said the author, a three-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award renowned for her book The Freedom Broker and Skyjack.
Reader in tears
Author and Engineer Dr Suaad Al Shamsi, famous for being the first female Emirati aircraft engineer, shared her perspective, saying: “The writer is the voice of the people. I knew I wanted to be the voice of a lot of people who can’t share their story. I remember after I wrote one of my books a woman called me crying and said ‘the hero of the book is me’.”
Grappling with loss
Explaining how writing is a spiritual journey, which allows an author to create a mirror for their own thoughts, UAE-based Syrian author Kinana Issa stated: “Thorough research is essential when aiming to create a character with depth and complexity. In my book, the protagonist grapples with memory loss and the mysterious loss of his beloved wife, who goes missing in Granada unable to speak Spanish. Immersing myself in the character’s perspective demanded extensive research on my part.”
All three women advised budding authors not to worry about things like word count or how many pages they have finished writing. Dr Suaad said: “Always believe you will be famous one day and that you are a good writer, take advice from experts and most importantly, read more books.”
Echoing the same sentiment, Issa’s advice was simply to keep writing. “When you want to write, don’t think of criticism.”
Despite winning awards, Howe said she is constantly learning and hoping to grow with every single book.