Today’s post in the “How to be an Author” series concentrates on characterization through character interview. KM Rockwell here interviews a minor character in order to improve characterization of a major character. The better we know our characters, the more depth and appeal they have to our readers. Please enjoy, share (using the buttons on the left hand side of the screen) and express your thoughts in the comments section.
by KM Rockwell
Today we have with us a character from the Jesse Damon Crime Novel series. Please let me introduce Mr. Carlos Ramirez, a parole officer for the State of Maryland.
Mr. Ramirez, you play a minor role in the series, but you wield a great deal of power over Jesse Damon, the main character. Could you tell us why?
Jesse is assigned to my caseload. Since he is paroled on a murder conviction, it’s my responsibility to monitor his behavior and request a violation hearing if I feel it’s warranted. Jesse knows this is pretty much his only chance for a life outside prison. He served almost twenty years and has another twenty backup time if he’s incarcerated again.
How’s he doing?
He’s had a lot of adjustments to make. Jesse was sent to prison when he was sixteen. He’s now in his thirties, and he missed out on an important part of his life. He’s determined not to return to prison, though, and he’s making progress.
Sixteen—why wasn’t he processed as a juvenile?
The US criminal justice system can be harsh. Certain charges, like murder, rape or hijacking, are automatically referred to adult court if the defendant is fourteen or older. I understand the criminal justice system in Great Britain works much differently, that there is an emphasis on rehabilitation and an assumption that the criminal can be rehabilitated.
Did Jesse actually do it?
Commit the murder? I’m not sure. He accepted an Alford plea—did not admit guilt, but conceded that the state had enough evidence to convict him. It’s a technicality. He’s convicted. That’s what matters to me. The murder occurred during a sting operation on a drug house—and a police eye-witness identified Jesse as the triggerman. He denies it, but he won’t explain what happened.
What do you think?
That Jesse might be protecting someone else—he does seem to have a sense of integrity. Or he’s really put one over on me—which isn’t easy to do. Then again, he might be in complete denial. That would be worrisome—if he’s in denial, what other mental health issues is he dealing with? Or he could just be lying.
He was sentenced to almost forty years. Why would he accept that plea bargain?
He was facing the death penalty. With the victim a drug dealer, not exactly an upstanding citizen, and the defendant only sixteen, it’s doubtful that would have been imposed. But had a jury trial ended in a conviction, Jesse might have picked up life without parole. This was a long sentence, but at least it had an end to it.
Recidivism rates are high, especially for someone who’s been incarcerated so long. Do you think Jesse will make it?
He’s got a good shot at it. He got a job as a laborer in a steel fabrication plant that participates in a program giving tax breaks to employers who hire paroled felons. Just living is an uphill battle, especially for someone with no family or friends to help him. He was on home detention when he was first released—a monitoring “box” strapped to his ankle. He was only allowed out for work and a few hours to run errands. He complied with that. If he was going to give me a hard time, I’d have expected it to be when I first eased up that supervision.
So he’s not having problems?
I didn’t say that. He’s having lots of problems. The biggest one right now is that he tends to hang around people who get themselves killed. He’s a natural suspect. And sometimes the local cops aren’t real fussy about the techniques they use to develop a case against such an obvious suspect.
Thank you, Mr. Ramirez, for stopping by and answering our questions. How could we find out what happens to Jesse?
By reading the books. The first one is Steeled for Murder, when a forklift driver is found dead in the warehouse. Second is Fostering Death. Jesse goes to pay his respects to a former foster mother, only to discover she’d been murdered. Buried Biker came out in December. After his sometimes-girlfriend Kelly is raped, he’s able to convince the police he wasn’t the perpetrator. But can he convince her father’s motorcycle gang? Sendoff for a Snitch is due out in August.
A most interesting character interview, designed to give the hero a 3D feel and anchor him in reality for the reader. Do you interview your characters in this way? Share this post and your comments below.