For me, creating characters is the part of the writing process that I enjoy the most. Many writers spend time drafting elaborate character sketches and profiles. While I often spend months outlining my plot, I don’t do any advance planning regarding my characters. Their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, simply develop as the mystery unfolds.
In writing Murder on the Down Low, I wanted to emphasize the friendship between the four main characters, Vernetta, Special, Nichelle and J.C. It was my goal to present four women who are strong and caring, as well as vulnerable and flawed. As it is in real life, no one has a picture perfect life. They all have personal challenges to overcome.
Murder on the Down Low is my third novel in the Vernetta Henderson mystery series, which also included Special. So from that perspective, Vernetta and Special were easier to write because I was so familiar with them. While Nichelle and J.C. are new to the series, I found it easy to build them into the close friendship between Vernetta and Special.
In Murder on the Down Low, Vernetta, a lawyer, is wrestling with her desire to make partner amid roadblocks posed by a junior associate.
In my first two novel, Every Reasonable Doubt and In Firm Pursuit, Special was an outrageous character who spoke her mind and went wherever her emotions took her. That also holds true for Special in Murder on the Down Low. I wanted the reader to actually feel her pain and anger over the senseless death of her cousin. I have to admit that I had a lot of fun thinking up nasty things for her to do to express her wrath.
I intentionally painted Nichelle as the more emotional member of the foursome. At one point in the story, she suggests that another character do something illegal to help Special. While at first this might seem to be inconsistent with Nichelle’s caring personality, I viewed it as an example of the depth of her concern for Special.
J.C. is the stronger, more emotionally reserved member of the foursome. She fits the stereotype of a female cop. Her vulnerability is evident when she finally confides in the other women about a very personal aspect of her life.
Murder on the Down Low is a fast-paced, sometimes shocking, murder mystery. But it also a tale of the power and beauty of friendship.