Welcome to the Charlie Smythington Mystery Series Blog.
Late one night a few years ago, I suddenly got an urge to write a murder mystery after working on science fiction novels for years. When I sat down at the computer, I was feeling whimsical, and out popped Charlie – he didn’t have a last name then. But the name Charlie seemed to perfectly reflect his carefree, outgoing personality – much different than Charles, which seemed stuffy and formal, and definitely not Chuck, which seemed way too casual. Charlie could be professional yet have a sense of humor, be mischievous, and be capable of enjoying life to the fullest.
I didn’t have to think about whether he was young or old, married or single, tall or short, handsome or ugly, etc.; he came fully developed into my imagination and took over.
I wanted to open with something unusual. Charlie should be off guard, caught in an embarrassing situation, and not looking for any intrigue. It just seemed so much more playful.
What better way than to wake up in a strange place, hungover and in pain? The horrendous pain that only comes from inebriation, and I well-remembered what that felt like from the wild and crazy days of my youth.
But it wasn’t enough to be hungover. He was naked, and in bed with someone, he didn’t know. While I hadn’t experienced that problem, I could certainly imagine it.
So, confused, embarrassed, and in pain, he decides to quietly leave without confronting the woman. Not that he’s cowardly, it just seemed the better part of discretion not to make her deal with it, assuming that she would probably be as embarrassed as he was.
But Sonja awoke and caught him leaving, and even more embarrassing moment. How Charlie deals with the situation is a clue to his personality. He takes responsibility for his actions and manages things instead of escaping unpleasantries. And he’s always sympathetic to other people’s feelings and needs.
So, I had a situation ripe for an additional setback. Both characters are awkward, ill-prepared for their condition, and in enough pain to try to avoid any more problems.
Then they discover Sonja’s husband murdered in the spare bedroom. Now, while I liked the complication of the dead man being her husband, it painted a picture of Sonja as a person with loose morals, and I didn’t want that connotation at all.
It was shocking to portray Sonja that way, so I wanted to rectify the situation as soon as possible. But it took an additional two chapters to explain why she was married and dating. And with the explanation, Charlie discovers that she is someone who really needs a friend, and he feels responsible for her situation. I hoped that the readers would stick with the story long enough to learn that Sonja is a good person, probably even a better person than Charlie.
I had an interesting beginning, but that’s never enough. Charlie had no last name, no profession, no lifestyle other than drinking, no problems, no hopes, etc. He was a shell of a man.
So, where did the name Smythington come from? Good question. I wanted an unusual name, something you didn’t hear every day. I have always enjoyed English characters, so many of them have such interesting names. I must have played with fifty different last names before Smythington popped up. I like it. I liked how it sounded with the “y” sounding like an “I.” Smithington just didn’t sound right. But with the “I” sound, it seemed British and distinguished. It added to the qualities I wanted Charlie to have.
The problem with the name Charlie Smythington is that it is long. I should have used a name more like Joe Doe, short and easy to type. If I had a dollar for every time I mistyped Charlie or Smythington, I’d be a millionaire.
Later, we’ll discuss why the revised version starts with Charlie and Sonja meeting at her shop, and that’s another long story.