Developing Characters over Time

One reviewer of my early books in the Hot Dog Detective series was concerned regarding the lack of development of MacFarland as a person. The reader wanted MacFarland to become more self-aware, to evolve out of his self-doubts and insecurities, to realize that he was in love with Detective Cynthia Pierson. In other words, the reader wanted MacFarland to grow up.


I wanted the same thing for MacFarland. But as the author, I have to take into account two significant facts.


First, development and evolution of one’s personality takes time. Or it takes significant transformative events in one’s life.


And second, I have twenty-seven books in the series to write.


Both of these factors influenced how I handled MacFarland’s maturation and emotional development.


The events in his life – the cases he solves – are not necessary transformative events, though they might be to you and me.  But to someone who is used to dealing with people when they’re not at their best, the cases themselves do not affect MacFarland in a profound way.


Yes, he is affected by the deaths of victims; he is upset when people he feels responsible for get killed or caught up in the crossfire of his investigation, as we discover in Case Number 1, The Avid Angler. But those events don’t propel him towards the kind of personal development in which most of us would like to see him engage. Most of the time, those events reinforce his tendency to withdraw, rely on himself, or suppress any inclinations towards development that he might pursue.


The events in his life that will cause him to develop are those in which he has to work with other people, learn to trust other people once more, and aspire to be part of a team. As the series continues, we can see him starting to move in the direction of trusting others. He starts by relying on his homeless friends for information and help. When some of his cases involve people close to him (as happens in Case Number 5, The Eager Evangelist), he begins to feel the need to work with others.


And finally, when he gets a chance to actually work alongside the one partner he truly respected, (Case Number 25, The Young Yogi) he learns what it is that he truly wants out of life.


As for the second factor, the fact that this is a twenty-seven book series, means that I have to spread this development and evolution of self-awareness over many books. He does grow and develop, but it is a gradual process on a case by case basis. I hope that by the time my readers get to Case Number 27, The Absent Ally, they will see the kind of development in MacFarland that most of us have been hoping for in the previous twenty-six books.

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