Here on the Fiction Desk, we’re often asked how to write a successful ‘Friend’ story.
While I was thinking about how best to answer that this week, it occurred to me that the answer lies in the shape of my favourite (and in my opinion, the best-ever) TV detective, Inspector Morse. I think there are comparisons in Inspector Morse that can help you write your best fiction.
Why does Morse have such enduring appeal?
Played by the late and much-missed John Thaw, the series still appears regularly on ITV3 and has been followed by two spin-offs, Lewis, and Endeavour. The first episode of Morse appeared on our screens on the 6th of January, 1987. So what has given it such enduring appeal that 31 years later it’s still a favourite? And how can it help you produce your best writing for the ‘Friend’?
Realistic, memorable, characters
Firstly, the characters. Morse himself is a very strong character – intelligent, yet grumpy; compassionate yet bad-tempered; strong, when it comes to upholding fairness and justice, yet weak when it comes to a pint. We’re given a real insight into his nature – a music lover and cultured man, yet a tad miserly when it comes to buying a round! Lewis is in many ways his opposite, coming from a different background, being married with children, and having a gentler, more down-to-earth approach – but the two complement each other.
Each character, from the main duo to those who appear in individual episodes, is memorable, with endearing qualities and strengths, but also flaws. So that’s step one – create characters with depth.
Let’s move on to the stories. Each episode has a strong storyline, brought to life by the characters – a believable plot with more than one story strand, the odd red herring, and a realistic outcome. So that’s step two – create an interesting storyline.
The dialogue between Morse and Lewis can be terse, humorous, heated – but it’s always natural. When you’re reading over your story, try reading any dialogue aloud. So that’s step three – check that any dialogue flows naturally.
Writing fiction for the ‘Friend’ is like a recipe, with these three main ingredients in the mix. Another tip is to read the magazine regularly – there’s no better way to see the type of content our readers are comfortable with.