Evolution of a Bad Guy

Maggie Toussaint

When I began plotting my second paranormal mystery, Bubba Done It, I knew one thing for sure. All the suspects had the nickname of Bubba. Other than that, I didn’t have a clue.

Bubba Done It

Before I could cast men in the suspect roles, I considered my setting and the types of characters I needed. I’m familiar with the setting as I use a fictional locale that’s similar to where I live in coastal Georgia. We have townies and imports. We have people with plenty and people with nothing. We have blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, even Native Americans. We have a stalled economy and our share of foreclosures.

All of the top suspects needed a motive to kill the banker. Some motives I considered were previous criminal record, financial trouble, and love.

The sheriff immediately adds four Bubbas to his suspect list. Since seafood is the main industry around here, it would be good to have a fisherman Bubba. I also wanted someone who’d moved to the county as a retiree, someone who didn’t quite get locals or their customs. That worked. Two Bubbas down, two to go.

Drugs are a universal problem in today’s world. I decided upon a Bubba with a bad track record as a crackhead, but who had allegedly reformed into an evangelist.

Lastly, I wanted to ensure my sleuth Baxley Powell had a definite call to action. She’d taken the heat in Book 1 as the top suspect, so for Book 2, I found a patsy in her brother-in-law. Why would he want to kill the banker? Baxley knew her Bubba was a dreamer who often needed money for get-rich-quick ventures. Baxley and her husband had bailed Bubba Powell out of financial scrapes for years.

With her husband dead, the task of saving Bubba fell to Baxley. She’s certain he couldn’t have done it.

Or at least she feels that way at first. With each layer of story revealed, she discovers more reasons for the Bubbas to have killed the banker. Her challenge is to sort through the evidence, in this world and the next, to finger the killer.

To summarize:
Populate your suspect list with characters fitting to your setting and situation.
Give the suspects motives to kill your victim.
Layer the suspects’ relationship with the victim to create complex characters.
Make sure the sleuth has a clear call to action.

Buy links for Bubba Done It:
Amazon hardcover
B&N hardcover

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MaggieToussaint_LargeSouthern author Maggie Toussaint is published in mystery, romantic suspense, and science fiction (writing as Rigel Carson). The third book in her Cleopatra Jones mystery series recently won the Silver Falchion Award, while her romances have won the National Readers’ Choice Award and the EPIC eBook Award for Romantic Suspense. Her latest mystery is a book two of her paranormal cozy series about a psychic sleuth, Bubba Done It.

14 thoughts on “Evolution of a Bad Guy

  1. I love the paranormal aspect of your stories. Baxley still has a a lot to learn about her power, and she’s growing into it in each book. As for the suspects, I’ve read Bubba Done It and had no clue which Bubba dunnit until the end.

    • Thanks, Nancy. I have now adopted a mode of writing where I don’t decide on the killer until near the end. That way, I make each suspect as villainous as possible.

      Thanks also for having me here to take about bad guys!


  2. First, I need a calculator to figure out today’s math problem. Very good mystery advice. The bad guys don’t really think they’re the bad guys, so giving them good personal motivation helps make them believable to the readers and adds to the ‘confusion’ as to whodunit.

    • ((snicker)) I had the same immediate reaction to having to do math on the authentication phase of comments, Terry! Math isn’t my strong suit, but I just had to dust off that side of my brain.

      You and I are on the same page with this. Keeping the bad guys cloaked by motivations, history, and intent goes a long way to upping the suspense in a novel. I’m very thankful for all the mystery novels I’ve read and all the writing craft classes I’ve taken over the years. They have hammered this fact into my head so that it almost seems as if its my idea…

      I appreciate the visit and the comment!


  3. Welcome to TKZ, Maggie! What attracted you to the idea of using multiple characters named Bubba? Writers are often given the advice to avoid using similar names–it must have been an interesting challenge to avoid creating confusion by using an identical name for multiple characters.

    • Hi Kathryn,
      I usually pay attention to the advice to have different looking and different sounding character names, but I broke the rules on purpose this time. The trick was in giving each Bubba such a strong identity so as there could be no confusion. The idea came from a golf tournament my husband played in, where a Bubba didn’t turn in his score card in a timely moment. When they hollered for him, about four guys answered “what?” My husband thought that was hysterical, but I immediately thought what a great misdirect for a mystery novel. Thanks for your comment!

    • Hi Elaine,
      I did twice as much characterization for this book as I’ve done for my others. I had to make sure that each Bubba had a distinct voice, look, and vocation. Fans have commented that they LOVE Bubba the crackhead evangelist, and I have used him again in subsequent books in the Dreamwalker series. I also had a lot of fun making sure to keep each character in their known settings, which made my sleuth go to them, a perfect activity for a cozy. Though it was harder on the front end, I found writing Bubba Done It to be an absorbing and fun entertainment.
      Thanks for the comment! Maggie

    • Hi Jordan,
      ((secret handshake)) The number of Bubbas in this world may astound many folks.
      Not long after Bubba Done It came out, PGA player BUBBA WATSON had a big tourney win. I was surprised that not one of the RSS feeds had “Bubba done it” in there. Seems like it would’ve been a great fit!
      Thanks for the comment, Maggie

  4. I hope I get the math equation. I love your 4 Bubbas…and totally get it living in Mississippi where we have a city alderman, a dog catcher and I don’t know how many Chevy truck drivers named Bubba.

    Great advice, too!

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