Reverse-Engineering Character: The First Cut and the Evolution of Recurring Characters

In the world of literature, characters often become entities beyond the pages they inhabit, growing alongside their creator and audience. As a writer, delving back into the past of my series with "The First Cut" was not just a trip down memory lane; it was an exploratory journey into the genesis of characters who have become a part of my narrative identity. It's fascinating and challenging to reverse-engineer the evolution of characters like Pauline, Jacob, Rick, and others, tracing back to their origins in 1999.

The Art of Reverse-Engineering Characters

Going back to the year 1999 in "The First Cut," the task at hand was to peel back the layers of time and experience that had shaped each character. The objective was to find their core, their unrefined selves before the series of events that defined them in later books. It's like meeting an old friend and discovering who they were before you knew them – there's a sense of familiarity, yet everything feels new and uncharted.

Pauline: The Dedicated Officer and Future Wife

Revisiting Pauline in her early days was particularly intriguing. Known for her strong moral compass and her struggle to balance her roles as a mother and a police officer, the younger Pauline of 1999 reveals a different side. Here, we see the foundations of her character, the formative experiences that shape her future self. It's a journey into her vulnerabilities, her aspirations, and the initial stages of her relationship with John Keegan. She will become Keegan's wife later in the series, so I need to plant some seeds that will grow into that result. I also need her to stand on her own while she occupies background space. She wasn't a part of Keegan's life back then, other than a fellow officer who worked in the records department.

Jacob: The Tech Expert

Then there's Jacob, the technologically adept ally of John Keegan. Revisiting his character in the past meant exploring his initial interactions with Keegan and how his skills were perceived in an era when digital forensics was still budding. It's fascinating to see his character from a time when his methods were novel and perhaps even met with skepticism. Jacob comes out of his shell throughout the series but I need to put him back in it for the retro series. Again, I have to be careful not to overdo it or make him a caricature; he needs to be a believable character with talents that will develop to the point where he pretty much solves John's cases for him.

Rick: The Rival Detective

Rick Calhill, known for his ambitious nature and rivalry with Keegan, presents another captivating character study. Going back to 1999, I had the opportunity to explore his early career, his motivations, and how his relationship with Keegan began. It's a deep dive into the dynamics of competition, camaraderie, and the complex interplay of professional relationships. They didn't like each other at first, and even when they became friends, the relationship was tenuous. I need to create this dynamic in the retro series so that if readers start there they can see a logical progression. At the same time, I have to be faithful to what current readers expect as they peer back into the past with me.

Karl Lavin: The Future Partner and Friend

Karl serves as a counter to John in the later series. In the retro one, I need him operating on the sidelines, working Vice but having his work intersect with John's for some entertaining cameos. He's a dynamic character and a true friend to John so he deserves some space in the past.

The Challenge of Consistency

One of the biggest challenges in this reverse-engineering process is maintaining consistency. The characters must align with their future selves in a way that feels natural and authentic. Every trait, decision, and interaction in 1999 must be a plausible precursor to who they become later in the series. It's a delicate balance of keeping true to their established narratives while allowing room for growth and surprises.

A Personal Connection

As a writer, I feel a profound connection with these characters. They have grown with me, and in revisiting their past, I'm reminded of my own journey – both as an author and as an individual. This exploration is not just about crafting a compelling prequel; it's about understanding the essence of creation and the continuous evolution of narrative.

In "The First Cut," the characters are not just moving through the plot; they're living, breathing entities embarking on their paths. For long-time readers, it's a chance to see the characters they've grown to love in a new light. For new readers, it's an introduction to their raw, unrefined beginnings. This blend of nostalgia and discovery makes "The First Cut" a unique and captivating addition to the series.


This introspective journey into the past of my characters not only enriched my understanding of them but also brought a fresh perspective to the entire series. It's a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring bond between a writer and their creations.

 

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