Digging into a Character by Paty Jager

View from my ride-along

I’m currently working on a the first book of a new mystery series. This new series is making me grow as a writer which is what I hope each book does, but this series and character in particular is really making me stretch my brain which isn’t getting any younger.

I picked not only a male protagonist but I made him Native American ( one of my signatures of what I write) and I put him in a profession I know nothing about. Whew! Talk about working in a totally new environment!

Through the years writing romance before I got the nerve to try my hand at mystery, I wrote from both the male an female points of view and in my Shandra Higheagle series I write from a male point of view with Detective Ryan Greer. But this book is told completely from the male point of view- from Fish and Wildlife State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s point of view.

Not only do I have to think like a male, I have to think a bit Native American and as a lawman would. Having been around my son-in-law who is a detective with the State Police, I’ve learned that even when they appear to be off duty and hanging around, they are still seeing things and picking up on things that the rest of us shrug off.

Trying to keep my character “on the alert” yet laid back and letting things happen as they should has been a tricky balance. Using his upbringing and his drive as counterpoints has also been tricky.  He has worked hard to get out of the reservation and to have the job he does-protecting his ancestors land. But at the same time because he is protecting his ancestors land he has a deep connection to his Native American roots. While he is full blood Native American he still feels as if his feet are in two worlds. He is upholding the Whiteman’s law as a lawman, but at the same time keeping vigilance over his Native roots.

This first book is taking me longer to write than I thought it would but I had to put it on hold while I did a ride-along with a Fish and Wildlife State Trooper in the Eagle Cap Wilderness where my character works.  The day I spent with the game warden was eye opening in the scope of duties they must preform. Because it is a large remote area, not only do they have to do their game duties but they also serve as a state trooper and while they are on the trail of a poacher or trespasser and there is a call that comes in about a shooting or domestic dispute they have to respond even if it is across the county from where they are at the moment.

Elk refuge where we were looking for trespassers

The best part about the ride-along was getting the troopers perspective on his job and learning some of the little nuances that I can add to books to give the character the flavor of a real life person.

When the first Gabriel Hawke book is ready to go to my critique partners and beta readers it will be interesting to see if I managed to get the male character correct.

The first thing that pulls me into a book is the characters. What about you?

SH Mug Art

8 thoughts on “Digging into a Character by Paty Jager

  1. Paty–good post. Underlines the idea that you shouldn’t simply write about what you know but rather what you want to know about. Stretch that writing muscle. Sounds like an interesting series.

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  2. The overall concept of a book–setting, theme, characters–draws me in. And the new series you’ve described sounds fascinating in all regards. Need another beta reader so I don’t have to wait?

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    1. Amber, I may take you up on that! I don’t have a clean manuscript yet, but when I think I do, I may be emailing you. I want this series to be the best I can make it.


  3. Hi Paty, good post. Building good characters takes work and time, but it’s worth it. I had a male friend read my first novel to make sure I had the male POV right. He pointed out a couple of nuances to me. Hopefully you’ll have a male beta reader.

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  4. Kate, I’ve witnessed the law enforcement side from by son-in-law’s perspective and it was interesting to see how another lawman felt. Thanks for commenting!


  5. Paty, I was also fortunate to do a ride-along with a deputy from the sheriff’s department in Ontario County, NY, where my Penningtons Investigate series is set. Like you, I valued so many aspects of the experience, including the chance to see the deputy as a person with his own personality, goals, conflicts, and motivations. I came away with much greater understanding of the job and respect for the role of law enforcer … and many new ideas for stories :-). –kate, writing as C. T. Collier

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