Constructing a strong central character - DI Andy Horton in the Marine Mystery Crime Series

"One of the essentials for a good novel is a strong central character, someone the reader can have empathy with, urge on, sometimes get angry and frustrated with and someone the reader can get close to and believe in. I was recently asked to provide some tips for creating a strong central character for the web site Write On and thought about my own central character in my marine mysteries, Inspector Andy Horton, and the protagonists in my two thrillers: Adam Greene in In Cold Daylight and Alex Albury in In For The Kill.

I like heroes so I guess they have to be that, but heroes have flaws too, and can sometimes be reluctant heroes, they are human after all, and so too are my lead characters, to me anyway. Below is the background to my central character in the marine mysteries, Andy Horton. In two blogs this week I'll look at what shapes Adam Greene in In Cold Daylight and Alex Albury in In For The Kill.

Main characters need to take control. They should not give in under pressure and should take an active part in solving their own problems. They can have faults but they change and grow throughout the novel. They make mistakes and learn from it. They have a cardinal quality and a trait/s that holds them back.

DI Andy Horton, the main character in my marine mystery crime series, is fearless in his search for justice but he's not one for conforming which means he runs the risk of being isolated in the police force, or worse losing his job. Being alone is his greatest fear, and yet he is alone. In Tide of Death, the first in the series his marriage has broken up, he's living on his small sailing boat in Southsea Marina, and in this and subsequent novels he's in danger of losing his fight to gain access to his daughter.

The author also needs to know what has shaped his or her characters. What is their background, family, education and experiences?

In the Horton marine mysteries, Andy Horton's mother walked out on him when he was child. He's never seen or heard from her since and he never knew his father. He's been raised with the tough and the manipulative, rejected and hurt.This is what makes him self-contained, unable to completely let go. He's been betrayed once he doesn't want to be betrayed again.

And where will he be at the end of the journey? What will he have learnt? Has he changed? At the end of each case, Horton has solved a crime, but along the way he has learnt more about himself, and his colleagues, their loyalties and ambitions. He's also moved a step closer towards discovering what happened to his mother when she left him in their council tower block to fend for himself, and it's not always what he wants to hear, each revelation reveals something about him and his past. He's left asking should he continue his search for the truth or is it a past that is better left alone? But already it is too late to go back. He has to press on despite or perhaps because of what he has learnt and get to the truth.

The latest DI Andy Horton Marine Mystery Crime Novel, number six in the series Footsteps on the Shore is now published in hardcover.

To see the marine mystery series visit