Top Tips on Writing Leading Crime Investigators

inspector morse

With the sad passing of the crime writer British Colin Dexter last month I felt inspired to share this with you.

Colin Dexter created the charming, enigmatic crime investigating character Inspector Morse. I remember the first episode, The Dead of Jericho, back in 1987 (so I am showing my age here, just a bit)! I was hooked from then on.

Have you wondered what makes good crime dramas like Luther or Inspector Morse? Well, wonder no more.  It usually starts with a good book!  That is, many TV dramas are adapted from crime novels.

Now, this is where all wannabe crime writers should sit up and listen. Nothing to stop the next big TV crime drama or indeed movie for that matter being based on the book you have written. Happy Days! I could not think of anything more fulfilling than seeing the characters from your book (that you probably wrote in your pyjamas) come to life on the television! It must work wonders for your confidence. And as you know us writer types are often introverts and low on confidence.

So if you fancy the idea of becoming the creator for say the next Luther type character, here are some top tips that may help as you are doing your drafts

Essential Tips

From what I can gather most hit TV detectives have more than just an interest in solving what is usually, complex crimes. There seems to be a ‘type’ which is usually male.

However, Lynda La Plante’s creation, Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect was of course female. Do you remember this drama with Helen Mirren? Very good too!

If we look at Luther played by Idris Elba, and the above mentioned Morse played by the late John Thaw, they tend to have an insightful approach to crime fighting which is based very much on instinct and intuition, as well as on evidence.  This instinctive approach to investigating crimes can often put them at odds with everyone else in their team or police department. This is an ideal opportunity to build more drama and conflict, which is the stuff of all good fiction don’t forget.

So the methods they use to solve crime is another thing to consider when writing your draft. Don’t forget to give these characters a good dollop of eccentricity, quirkiness and moodiness.

In addition to how they actually work, you must give them personal problems. Leading crime investigators tend to be battling personal demons such as marital/relationship problems as in Luther, or Dr Edward Fitzgerald (Fitz) in the 90’s TV drama Cracker, played by Robbie Coltrane . Yes, I know Cracker was actually a criminal psychologist who assisted the police. But do you see my point?

DCI Jane Tennison, from Prime Suspect played by Helen Mirren, faced hostility from her male colleagues.  Again, she had her fair share of personal issues, which somehow make these characters seem more believable.

As for the character of Inspector Morse, if you are a fan of this hit TV drama you will know that Inspector Morse although excellent at his job along with this side-kick Lewis, was a demanding man, a bachelor, who made fighting crime seem like solving puzzles! Again, this demonstrates the need to give these memorable characters, traits, and flaws just like anyone else doing any other job.

To recap:

  • Make your character, attractive and likeable, but flawed.
  • Give them an unusual way of working, but it gets the results – that is, the apprehension of the criminal.
  • Remember to make them difficult to work with but respected however grudgingly, by their colleagues.

Finally, you the audience still want to root for them and see them succeed.

Until next time, Happy Writing, S


Published by Sharon's Writers Tidbits

Sharon is a writer who lives in north London and has a long-held passion for the art and craft of creative writing. Sharon's main interests are novels, short stories and poetry. She also enjoys writing non-fiction. She is an avid reader and has a threatening TBR pile of books!

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