A few weeks ago I was asked by my publisher to have a go at writing the postmortem report for Dr Eleanor Costello. Eleanor is one of the first characters we meet in TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE. And also the first victim. She’s a complex character and it was really important to me, that even though she was dead, she didn’t get left behind as the investigation progressed. I wanted to create a sense that she was never too far away from the action, which is difficult enough but even more difficult when you’re writing from the first person perspective of another character. Watching Eleanor build in my protagonist’s mind was very satisfying. Eleanor is the only path DCS Sheehan has into the investigation, so in a way the postmortem holds some very important clues and really kicks down that first domino.
I love doing character sketches, asking myself what books are on character’s bed stands, what TV programmes they’d watch, what would their last Facebook post be etc but this was a great way to get under the skin (excuse the pun) of my character. What exactly did her body say about how she lived? What habits did she have that were already making marks on her organs? Would it be too morbid to recommend this as a writing exercise? Probably! And in fairness, the pathologist, Dr Abigail James, in the opening scenes of TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE had done most of the work for me, so I can’t take all the credit here.
For Eleanor, I’m really glad I got to look deeper. One of the inspirations for writing TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE was to write about a victim who would not fade into the background. And one of the most satisfying things for me to hear from readers is how much they love the two main protagonists. It’s so gratifying to hear Eleanor referred to as ‘present’ in this way. The postmortem report was to be used as part of a package for readers. Here’s a pic of the completed article.
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