I’ve been writing interactive murder mysteries since 1986 and  in that time  I’ve  created a whole collection of characters  who have become almost more real to me than actual, live people  Some of my favorites are   Elizabeth Crandall, the society hostess, Dr. Audrey Taylor who writes the advice column Ask Audrey Anything, Countess Maria, the noted fortune-teller,  Danny (Duke Carleton) the notorious gambler,  Robby Ray the famous singer, Ms. Maddy the matchmaker  and Senator Bobby whose campaign speech is short and simple.  “I stand on my record”

These people pop up in several different plays.   Sometimes  they are suspects, sometimes, (although its getting harder and harder for me to write it)   they are the guilty person or even the victim!   I’d really rather  create a whole new character for the victim or the “bad guy”,  a  new character who I haven’t bonded with, who I don’t especially care about or like.  I love Elizabeth and Countess Maria and Dr. Audrey,  Robby and Ms Maddy;  Duke and Senator Bobby make me smile. It feels wrong,  almost cruel and unfeeling,  to kill them or make them into criminals.

The setting of the play determines who the characters will be. Reunions Are Murder,  about a nineteen fifties high school reunion,  has a cheer-leader, a class president, the football hero, a prom queen and the greasers.   A Corporate Crime has the CEO, , his ambitious assistant, the advertising and marketing directors and the competitor;  “Lights, Camera, Murder” features the director, the stars, the jealous understudy and the financial backer and “Murder At Sea” has the captain, the cruise director, the entertainer and the chef.

Finding just the right name for  these people is a challenge; I  sometimes  make several changes (Laura, Joan, Angie??)   until one sounds just right for the character.    Since the plays are participatory I  include complete backgrounds, histories and relationships for these characters so that the actors who play them are prepared  and can answer any questions the audience might ask.  And they do ask!

“Where did you meet your bride?”  “How long have you worked at The Crumpert Cookie Company?”   “What did you do before you were a Senator?”  “How did you get started in show business?”  The actors in the show have to know the correct answers so as not to mislead or confuse the audience.

I recently met a woman who has the same name as one of my characters; it’s hard to think her as an activity director because,  in my mind she is ….i won’t print her name—the former actress who now makes Wolf Dog Food commercials

The characters  are truly real to me ; I  wanted to remember them, keep them in a more permanent form than the plays so I put several of them into mystery novels , Murder In The Inn and Another Murder In the Inn  and   Murder Is Served (short mystery stories which use all of the characters that didn’t fit into the Inn books).

I’ve also created a whole “mystery world” but, that’s another article.