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The Detective’s Opponent in Your Mystery

Not the Villain, The Obstacle Maker

Enrich your mystery with an opponent who gives your detective problems. The opponent has a role quite different from the villain’s role. The villain in a mystery is the one who committed the murder. From Agatha Christie’s Chief Inspector Japp and Hercule Poirot to the neighbor Grannen in the Swedish television series Beck.

The opponent is a character who causes trouble for your hero, the detective. They may be a rival, or a love or ex-spouse, or a neighbor… But somehow, villainous or bumbling, they are connected to the detective and oppose your central character.

Just like the sidekick, the opponent can be any age or sex. Their main role in the story is to cause problems and throw up obstacles for the detective. These obstacles force your detective to show qualities and personality characteristics that deepen your reader’s understanding of the central character.

Opponent Obstacles

The opponent creates obstacles that personally affect the detective and often hinder the murder investigation.

  • Interference like a time delay causing the detective to miss an important meeting or interview with a suspect.
  • Professional character assassination.
  • Stealing evidence or planting false clue to deter the detective’s search.
  • Intentional or unintentional false information.
  • Attempting to steal the love interest.

It’s up to your writer imagination to come up with ways to thwart your detective.

Sleuth Character Expansion

Depending on the opponent’s character and role in the mystery, each obstacle creates and opportunity for the mystery writer to expand your reader’s knowledge of the sleuth.

Because the opponent is outside the sleuth’s investigation, the interactions between the two characters are personal. These interactions reveal character traits the sleuth may not use in the pursuit of a murder inquiry.

  • Tolerance of irritating behavior.
  • Anger unleashed the sleuth keeps under wraps professionally.
  • Tender feelings for other characters.
  • Wisdom.
  • Pride.

Again, your writer imagination is the key to creating situations that emphasize your sleuth’s traits by interacting with the opponent.

The Free Character for Mystery Writers

The opponent complicates the sleuth’s life but not the mysteryThe opponent can be a fun addition to your mystery because they don’t have to be part of the solution. As a novelist, you have a free hand in creating the sleuth’s opponent. Make the opponent as likeable or unlikable as you want and then insert them into the story to reveal your sleuth’s character traits. Readers will relate to your character and the misadventures created by the opponent.  

Zara Altair

Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Her course for beginning writers Write A Killer Mystery is coming soon. Get on the notification list.
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