The “Chosen One” Trope: Walking The Line Between Classic And Cliché By Desiree Villena

The “Chosen One” Trope: Walking The Line Between Classic And Cliché

There are plenty of explanations for why the “Chosen One” is such an evergreen trope, appealing to writers and readers alike. It’s a truly versatile device that presents ample opportunities for authors to craft complex worlds and relatable characters. However, because of its ubiquity, you also run the risk of writing yourself into a cliché-filled corner!

Learning how to avoid clichés, and lazy writing in general, is essential to literary success. To that end, I wanted to give some advice on how to make this classic trope work — and crucially, how to avoid its worst pitfalls. First and foremost, you need to…

1. Understand the trope

The Chosen One, as the term implies, is a character who has somehow been “chosen” as the only one capable of defeating evil, saving the world, or resolving some kind of major conflict in a story. It is especially common in speculative fiction and is often paired with a hero’s journey

Some well-known examples include King Arthur, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Indeed, this trope can be adapted for any genre; what unites these characters is that they have all been elected to play a pivotal role in their respective worlds. 

With countless “Chosen One” sub-tropes to explore, my first tip for any writer is to read extensively! This tried-and-tested method gives you a chance to:

  • Absorb what has been said before, what you think works and what doesn’t; 
  • Take inspiration from what does work, and;
  • Figure out how to craft something original.

2. Avoid the major pitfalls

While I can’t warn you against every potential pitfall with the Chosen One (there are too many variations of this trope for that), here are some key things to watch out for. 

A) The destiny trap

For every story that features an element of “chosenness,” there is usually some flavor of destiny or predetermination involved. This can (unsurprisingly) lead to predictability — the protagonist discovering their chosenness, setting out on a quest, and meeting some type of opposition so they can undergo personal growth and, eventually, realize their true potential to defeat their opponent.

It’s a tricky line to skate. As a writer, you want there to be some element of inevitability, because it’s a central conceit of the Chosen One narrative. Perhaps you can twist it a bit in your writing (the reluctant hero’s internal battle against their true destiny is always a fun one).

That said, destiny can start to eat away at the agency of your characters, or inadvertently give away the plot. After all, if we’re so sure the hero’s going to defeat the villain, why bother reading to the end of the book? This is why you need to keep readers on their toes, even if it means misleading them for a little while.

Carefully planning your novel can help you maintain good pacing to keep readers on the edge of their seats, even if they already have an inkling of the overall arc. The potentially predictable nature of Chosen One plots require extra care to prevent readers from growing disinterested. If you’re struggling with this, break it down into manageable chunks! Make sure you have at least the following things outlined before you start writing:

  • A narrative arc with a beginning, midpoint, and end;
  • Character profiles for your main characters;
  • A clear setting.

This will give you a solid idea of when best to deploy certain action beats to keep your pacing tight, while still allowing the creative freedom to get from point A to B. In short: you can ensure you have a good grasp on all the different threads that need to be tangled and subsequently untangled over the course of your novel, and become a true puppet master of your characters.

B) The flat character trap

Once you’ve structured your novel with plenty of surprises, you’ll want to map out your characters. Unfortunately, the Chosen One device can lead to lazy characterizations because well, she’s the chosen one — isn’t that interesting enough? Spoiler alert: it’s not.

Flat characters are the kiss of death to any book, and what could be more flat than a perceived lack of agency? Predictability and inevitability can make your characters seem powerless and anonymous, as well as utterly replaceable. It also makes it tough to create the necessary tension to carry the novel forward and make your readers really root for the protagonist.

So how do you avoid this? It’s actually pretty simple: give your “Chosen One” their own choices and introduce them as having a real personality and relationships, using the following tactics: 

  • Create backstories for your characters. Include only necessary details in the story itself, but let a more elaborate mosaic of character memories and personal history inform your character’s thoughts and actions to create consistency. Not sure where to start? Check out this character questionnaire to get the ball rolling.
  • Have your main character act decisively, or make a choice with real stakes (even if it has negative consequences in the short term). You want to remind the reader that, while fate has given them a helping hand, they’re still agents in the story whose choices matter.
  • Pay attention to character descriptions. Don’t write as if you’re describing someone to a forensic artist, with physical traits only! Instead, pick one deeper aspect that would stand out to you if you met them in real life and slowly build from there. Describe your protagonist’s thoughts, actions, and interactions to reflect their personality, rather than using basic exposition (in other words: show, don’t tell).

C) The good vs. evil trap

Every good Chosen One story needs a great antagonist. It doesn’t have to be a person, but it often is — which may tempt you to create an out-and-out villain, verging on caricature, to offset your good guy/girl. This might be fun to write, but it isn’t super compelling to read. And, more importantly, writing a strong, complex antagonist is a useful way to avoid accidentally making your story’s morality too black-and-white.

Whether your main character is facing an evil mastermind or fighting a wider threat to peace, plan your antagonist(s) out and consider what motivates them. One good exercise is to think about how you would write the story from their perspective, and incorporate your insights about their motivations and feelings into your main story.

It’s easy to over-simplify the world around us and write an antagonist who’s obviously, undeniably evil, but people rarely think of their own choices as such. It is far more interesting to read something that makes you question your own assumptions about what is right and wrong, so adding shades of gray and character flaws to your antagonist (and your protagonist too!) is an opportunity to shy cleverly away from this binary worldview and spice up your Chosen One tale.

3. When in doubt, look inward, not outward

When you take on a common trope, there’s a great deal of pressure to create something familiar yet unique. If you’ve made it this far and you think it seems like an impossible task, I have one more tip that might help you think of it in a different, more freeing way.

I’ve hinted at this already, but once you know the pitfalls like the back of your hand, you can use them to your fullest advantage. Toy with your readers by subverting the common characteristics of the Chosen One trope and make it fit your story, not the other way around. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, which can stump even the most imaginative authors, look for what is real.

By all means, use your imagination to make up whole new worlds, but always put your story and characters first to create something readers can relate to and which speaks to them. Religiously adhering to a mold other people have created (or trying desperately to avoid one in the pursuit of originality) is not going to serve you in the long run. When you write what is real to you, it doesn’t matter if it has been done before, because it will feel fresh and unique to the reader. 

Whether it was some mysterious force that put a pen in your hand or your own pure determination, you’ve got this! Happy writing.

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction, writing short stories, and analyzing literature into the ground.

Creating Complex Characters | Writing Tips




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Creating Complex Characters | Writing Tips




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Interview with Jesikah Sundin Author of The Biodome Chronicles


Legacy Banner



Please welcome Science Fiction & Fantasy author Jesikah Sundin




Jesikah Sundin, Author profile



Jesikah Sundin is multi-award winning a sci-fi/fantasy writer mom of three nerdlets and devoted wife to a gamer geek. In addition to her family, she shares her home in Monroe, Washington with a red-footed tortoise and a collection of seatbelt purses. She is addicted to coffee, laughing, and Dr. Martens boots and shoes … Oh! And the forest is her happy place.

Other Interesting tidbits:

Jesikah owns Forest Tales Photography, and boasts a varied background in business administration and marketing, though her heart has always belonged to the arts and sciences. In college, she pursued a degree in geophysics and oceanography. And, as a teenager, she attended a performing arts school for musical theater and opera, performing in several theater productions, while also serving as editor-in-chief of her high school’s newspaper. She is married for over twenty years to her high school sweetheart and raising three awesomely geeky children. When not writing, she’s often found in her garden, hiking, gaming, baking, fangirling over all things Star Wars and Firefly, or attending various conventions in cosplay, notably Comicon and FaerieCon.






Interview Microphone Cord Wire Word Radio Podcast Discussion




Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?


I’m not sure if you mean “writing” as fellow writers who have inspired me or “writing” as in the stories I write. But, thankfully, the answer for both angles is similar.I read pretty much everything, from westerns to poetry to crime thrillers to the classics to everything in-between. Though, my main book diet is young adult science fiction and fantasy. My brain is author and story alphabet soup at this point. I’ve also lived in two vastly different states, in three vastly different geographical areas, and traveled all over North and parts of South America. These experiences make a great marinade for the imagination.  Additionally, I spent my formative years immersed in the liberal arts (dance, opera, theater, competition choir) while studying for a degree in science (geophysics, oceanography, and ethnoscience). The combination? Weird, genre-mash-up stories, that blend the arts and sciences, and explore people, culture, geographies, and their relationship with the environments they find themselves in.   




Science fiction Biodome




Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

Well, it was all rather simple. Sunny did all the hard work and I got to enjoy the fruits of his labor with commentary. Usually I’d see a notice in my inbox that another chapter was ready for review. I’d squeal, plunk myself down in a comfortable spot, pull my book up, read along as I listened to the narration, and take notes of any discrepancies I found, or feedback on how I’d prefer something to be said (emotional notes). That’s pretty much it. A fun process on my end!






Audiobook image Biodome






Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?

Ha! No, actually. Never even crossed my mind. LEGACY was originally published in January 2014. It wasn’t until last year that I even considered an audiobook and only because I had so many potential readers comment on social media that they wished my book were in audio format. Anything for my readers 😉




Idea Biodome





How did you select your narrator?

It was an involved process that included far too many cups of coffee, sacrifices to the Audible gods, and sleepless night wondering if I’d ever find The One. And then I did, which was rather miraculous, as finding The One usually is. I honestly didn’t think I’d contract a voice actor because of the language difficulties narrating LEGACY would present (American and British English, Latin, French, and Japanese) and different point-of-view writing styles (cyberpunk and classical fantasy style). I’m pretty sure I cried oceans of grateful tears when Sunny sent in an audition.  




narrator biodome





Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?


Oh, the languages and dialects for sure. Sunny Patel’s lovely British accent breathed life into my New Eden Township characters. But I was floored when the written French and Japanese became real. I sort of melt into a puddle whenever I hear him speak Leaf and Oaklee’s lines in French or Fillion’s Japanese dialogue.




Japanese Biodome





Legacy: The Biodome Chronicles




Legacy Biodome image audio




Character Profiles




One silver biodome







Fillion Nichols (born in Dublin, Ireland and raised in Seattle, Washington state) is a hacker in the Anime Tech Movement’s computer underground, even though he is part of the Corporate Elite. At age 17, he is fluent in Japanese, can hack most Smart devices, websites (including government sites), and holographic computer technology. He also writes encryption software algorithms, same as his life-long best friend, Mack. Fillion works the communications night shift at New Eden Enterprises for New Eden Biospherics & Research, the companies responsible for the experiment at New Eden Township.


At age 20, he’ll come into trust majority of a large legal Legacy, an inheritance he resents. But, as he states, it never matters what he wants. Ever. Fillion sees himself no different than a drone, something programmable. Something his father owns to manipulate and use at will. A fate he fears he’ll never escape.


His sister Lynden is 11 months younger than him. The media scrutinizes his every move. When he had attended Academy, he was bullied regularly. For this reason, Mack and Lynden are the only two people Fillion trusts.


He is known for his quick wit and sarcastic humor, analytical/philosophical thinking, rambling thoughts, deep emotions and convictions, guitar playing, and his fondness for whiskey and cigarettes.





two silver biodome







Willow Oak Watson, lovingly referred to as Oaklee by her father or the Daughter of Earth by the community, is nearly 16 years old when the story opens. She was born inside New Eden Township (Salton Sea, California), much the same as others from the second generation. At age 8, she apprenticed with Mistress Katie, the head village spinner and weaver, and became a master spinner and seamstress at age 14.


Her fingers prefer to stay busy, even if to twirl strands of hair when her hands are not otherwise occupied. Quite often, she perches high above her community in the branches of her beloved willow oak tree, humming a merry tune while pondering the world around her. When grieved by offense, she feels the injustice whipping inside of her with gale force winds, earning her the family nickname Hurricane Willow.


Her father, Joel Watson, was the Earth Element, one of four head Nobility positions within New Eden Township. Her mother, Claire Johnston, died from childbed fever when she was 8 years old. Willow has an older brother named Leaf (age 19) and a younger sister named Laurel (age 8).


Willow is best known for her atmospheric personality, poetic tendencies, quick wit, deep and thoughtful emotions, empathy, and her connection to nature.




three biodome








Leaf Watson, titled the Son of Earth, was the first child born within the walls of New Eden Township. He is the eldest child in the Earth Element house at age 19 and among the oldest members of the second generation. Since a small boy, he has found great pleasure in watching living things grow and flourish. Unlike most from Nobility, he was pushed through a rigorous education, which included additional studies under the tutelage of the village Barrister.


Since age 15, Leaf has acted as First Representative for his father, Joel Watson, who was a head Noble inside New Eden Township. But an unthinkable situation changes everything. An invisible crown of power is bequeathed to Leaf as his father takes his final breaths. This family secret propels Leaf into a position that not only threatens his home but also his way of life. To Leaf, each day seems to unearth new secrets and present new challenges, an overwhelming situation, especially as he is now the legal guardian for his sisters, Willow Oak (age 15) and Laurel (age 8).


Leaf is known for his kind, steadfast, and astute personality, as well as his honorable and gentlemanly demeanor. He is reserved and dutiful, sometimes to the point of self-sacrifice. Although a peace-maker by nature, he would be willing to wage war in order to protect his family.






Legacy Teaser



About the Audiobook

Author: Jesikah Sundin

Narrator: Sunil Patel

Length: 12 hours 30 minutes

Publisher: Forest Tales Publishing⎮2017

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: The Biodome Chronicles, Book 1

Release date: Dec. 11, 2017


She is from the past, locked inside a world within a world.

He is from the future, haunted by her death.


A sensible young nobleman and his fiery sister live in an experimental medieval village. Sealed inside this biodome since infancy, Leaf and Willow have been groomed by The Code to build a sustainable world, one devoid of Outsider interference. One that believes death will give way to life.

All is ideal until their father bequeaths a family secret with his dying breath, placing an invisible crown of power on Leaf’s head. Now everyone in their quiet town is suspect. Risking banishment, the siblings search for clues, leading them to Fillion Nichols, an Outsider with a shocking connection to their family. Their encounter launches Fillion into battle with his turbulent past as he rushes to decode the many secrets that bind their future together–a necessity if they are all to survive.

Cultures clash in an unforgettable quest for truth, unfolding a story rich in mystery, betrayal, and love.


Are you ready to discover what is real?

Buy Links

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Introducing Anya from Elderhaus by Anne Carmichael






Anne Carmichael is also the author of the Magoo series, Darby at the Derby, and Polar Opposites. She’s also one of our wonderful authors in this year’s Mystery Thriller Week event. Don’t miss it!





Gertrude spent the better part of her adult life scouring Europe for Helmut Klingenfelter, the father who vanished not only from her life and that of her mother but had forsaken everyone in his past.
With midlife looming on the horizon, Gertie made the decision to stop chasing the ghosts of the past and return to her childhood home of Pitch Pine, where she purchased a century-old house at 1211 Castle Lane sight unseen.
Elderhaus, as it came to be known, had a mysterious past of its own, one that would threaten more than Gertrude’s desire for finding happiness.





Who is Anyaleise Klingenfelter?





*Who is Anyaleise Klingenfelter?

Anyaleise Hoffmann (aka Anya Klingenfelter) is the mother of Gertrude Klingenfelter. Anya was born the daughter of a Jewish farmer named Jacob Hoffmann and his wife, Leah Hoffman.


*Does her name mean anything?

Anyaleise is a name of German origin. In German the meaning of the name Anyaleise is: Derived from a compound of Anna (meaning grace) and Liesa, which is a German diminutive of Elizabeth (God is bountiful).


*What part of Germany is she from?

from Alsace-Lorraine on the border of France and Germany.









*How did you come up with the concept for Anya?

Right before I awoke on a Saturday morning, I heard the name Gertrude Klingenfelter in a sort of dream. When I sat up in bed, I knew that this is was the day I was to begin my novel and that Gertrude Klingenfelter was to be my protagonist. I started researching the origin of the surname Klingenfelter, which lead me to a town in Germany in the 1500s. It was called Lingenfelter and since people in that time didn’t really have surnames, they were known by the village where they resided. In my book, all of Gertrude’s father, Helmut’s, family spells their name without the ‘K’ to their name. One of the questions Gertrude has in her quest to find her father is why he added the ‘K’to their name when he came to America. [Helmut had been a very secretive man and had never shared anything about his pasts with his wife or his child. As I continued my research on the family name, I found myself studying Nazi Germany and the back-story of Anya’s family came to life. The back story was eventually removed from ‘Elderhaus’ during editing, as the publisher felt it detracted from the evolution of the story. I’m so glad that I’m able to share some of it with you here, as it was very compelling as I was writing it.












*What was her experience like in Nazi Germany?

Jacob Hoffmann secluded his family in the hills outside Alsace-Lorraine. They farmed and lived off the land. Only Jacob ever ventured into town to purchase supplies and he sometimes picked up books for his wife Leah to home school Anya. Because they lived on the border of France and Germany, Leah taught Anya French and English, because she hoped someday her daughter would be able to leave the confines of their mountain sanctuary. One day, a strangely dressed man named Isaac who wore a tattered black hat with long curls down each side of his face appeared at their door and spoke in a foreign language that Anya did not understand. Her father, however, seemed to understand perfectly and hurried the man from the door and into the barn. She learned much later, that man irrevocably change their lives and those of future generations forever.

Anya overheard the following life-altering conversation between her father and mother in August of 1948:

“You and Anya must pack your personal belongings quickly and prepare for a trip via a military cargo ship to America. The American leader has signed a law called the Displaced Person’s Act. 205,000 displaced persons and 17,000 orphans are going to be permitted entry into the country and we will be among those immigrants,” said her Father. “In order to immigrate, a displaced person must have a sponsor who is willing to arrange for housing and employment upon arrival.

Perhaps you remember the man called Isaac, the transient, Hasidic Jew who visited our farm some time ago? It seemed he was traveling throughout Europe, as part of a mission trip to find, free and assist other Jews before they disappear, as so many of our brethren have done. Isaac told me the Nazi regime has been capturing trainloads of Jews and hauling them off to concentration camps where they are treated deplorably and murdered in gas chambers. He urged me to take our family and flee Germany.

Soon, their bags were loaded onto the cargo ship in Bremerhaven. After what seemed an eternity aboard the military cargo ship, they arrived in New York.

They spent two nights at a hostel in New York City before Isaac was able to manage transportation for them to Pennsylvania. He arranged work for Jacob at a small carpentry shop in Milford, near Pitch Pine”












*What impact did this have on her?

Anya had been segregated from the community growing up, so she was very anxious to find new friends in Pitch Pine. That also made her vulnerable to people who befriended her for their own agenda….particularly the mayor’s wife, Dottie Franklin. Anya trusted Dottie with her life and Dottie betrayed her.

After Gertie finished college, she left for Europe to try to find her father and get answers to his disappearance. Anya went to work in Polka Dot’s dress shop, which belonged to Dottie Franklin, the Mayor’s wife . One day Dot came in to find that Anya had apparently hanged herself with several yards of silk brocade, but was it really as it appeared?



*How did this impact her relationship with her daughter Gertrude?

After her Helmut abandoned Anya and Gertie when she was just five years old, she trusted no one, except her mother. She found that animals were more loyal and loving than people and she ‘collected’ every injured or stray animal she found. Old Doc Myers would patch them up and Gertie would care for them until they were able to go back out on their own (wild animals) or she would find homes for the domestic animals.

In later life, her love for the animals lead her to her one true love and her collection of senior dogs is why she named her home ‘Elderhaus’ (which means ‘old house’ in German).











*Who forced her to have an arranged marriage?

Anyaleise was seventeen when her family arrived in America. home-schooled me. Her father immediately set about finding a matchmaker who would choose a suitor for her. since she was almost eighteen years old and nearing an age when she would be considered an old maid.

As luck, or in Anya’s case fate would have it, there was just such a matchmaker right there in Pitch Pine. Her name was Zelda Baasch. Apparently, he had gone to Zelda with a checklist of the attributes he wished his future son-in- law to possess. Ultimately, Zelda returned to him with what she proclaimed to be the perfect suitor. She told him that the young man known as Helmut Klingenfelter was of German Jewish descent with an advanced degree in architecture and a 2nd major in Business Administration. Zelda was forced to admit that Helmut had not been forthcoming in sharing details of his past; but she knew that for so many refugees of World War II, there were memories which were too painful to recall, much less share.

Helmut told his prospective father-in- law, that he wished to raise his family in Pitch Pine. He said he wanted to become the City Planner of the township. He wanted to restore and develop the land and structures originally built by early settlers.

Anyaleise and Helmut were married in June of 1949 and exactly nine months to the day following our wedding, Gertrude Leah Klingenfelter was born.



*What are some facts about Anya that are not in the story?

Anya was far stronger than anyone ever gave her credit for and that’s not obvious to anyone who hasn’t been there themselves. She stood up to Helmut when she thought he was cheating on her and made the choice to raise Gertrude alone, rather than accept his philandering. She raised a child alone in a time when to do so was not as prevalent as it is today and she was wise enough to build a sizable inheritance to leave her daughter.




Thanks Anne!!








Anne is the author of the Magoo Who Series, which includes Book 1: ‘MAGOO WHO? LIFE THROUGH MY EYES’ Book 2: ‘MAY I BE FRANK’, Book 3: ‘SILENT VIGIL’ and Book 4: ‘MAGIC & MIRACLES: A HOMECOMING’ and ‘DARBY AT THE DERBY’, whose release coincided with the 2015 Kentucky Derby. 

Amazon | Goodreads | Website












Benjamin Thomas



Talking Mystery & History with Author Ritter Ames




An investigative and exploratory approach into the minds of voracious readers everywhere. Strap your seat belt and let’s take a ride into the wonderful world of mystery…






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Let’s see through the eyes of yet another voracious reader…












Ritter Ames is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Organized Mysteries series and Bodies of Art mysteries. She’s also a voracious reader and one of our participating authors in  this year’s Mystery Thriller Week

Welcome Ritter!


*Who influenced your reading habits the most as a child?


Oh, so many people. Probably the earliest was my grandmother, but once I started school I was fortunate to have wonderful teachers. And once I discovered the public library and that librarians LOVED to help kids find new books about things they liked, I couldn’t be stopped.


Thank the Lord for grandmothers! That’s wonderful you had so many helpful people early in life. I remember two particular teachers in elementary that encouraged me a lot. We never forget the ones who truly cared for us.













*Which were the first mysteries that drew you into the genre?


The first mystery I ever read was in third grade, and it was The Brownie Scout Mystery by Dorothy Sterling. I checked it out of my elementary school library and honestly only chose it because I was a Brownie at the time, so felt that connection. Then, for Christmas, my aunt (the daughter of the grandmother I mentioned in the earlier question) gave me my first Trixie Belden book. It was the fourth book in the series, and I was thrilled to realize there were so many more Trixie Belden books for me to read, since I think they were all written before I was born. That led on to Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and I read a few Robin Kane mysteries that my cousin had, but none of them compared to Trixie and Honey’s mysteries and adventures. Later, I moved on to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie.


I love hearing about the mysteries that shaped a writer early in life. 






A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket ~Chinese Proverb





*Name your top 5 favorite books and what affect they had on you.


1)    The Odessa File by Frederick Forsythe – I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I still have that amazed feeling whenever I think about the answer the bad guy received when he asked why the main character continued trying so hard to pursue him. I’d read the whole book up until then wondering why, myself, and the answer surprised me so much—especially when I realized the clue had been there all along, but I’d missed it.

2)    Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams – I purchased the hardcover edition of this book in 1987 because I was already an Adams fan due to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. So, I knew this wasn’t going to be your standard mystery. The absolute creative genius behind this book makes it not only my all-time favorite by this author (though the addition of Thor in the sequel The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul makes that novel come a close second), but I’ve read and reread this book (and too short series) several times. I haven’t yet seen the BBC program featuring the novel, but it’s on my to-watch list when I get time for some British binging.

3)    Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy – This isn’t a mystery, but there were so many absolutely beautiful passages to fall into as I read the book. The first time I read it I probably took three times longer than usual to do so because I kept going back and rereading whole paragraphs and pages.

4)    Every Single Novel by Elizabeth Peters – Actually, I like a lot of her Barbara Michaels books, too, and I own several of her nonfiction books written under her real name of Barbara Mertz. But truly, I love everything penned as Elizabeth Peters and own every title she wrote under that name. Rather than list a novel, I’d have to say her Amelia Peabody Mystery Series would be my favorite because of the way she wove fascinating real facts within her historical mysteries, and had such standout characters throughout the titles. For almost the same reasons, I’d have to list the Vicky Bliss Mystery Series as a close second—with less books in the series it doesn’t have quite the depth of Peabody, but it does a great job of blending fact and mystery plot and characters. And, of course, there are the Jacqueline Kirby books, and the many wonderful standalones Peters wrote before all her series took off.

5)    The Harry Potter Series – I think every book in that series was wonderful, but together, seeing the complete series arc by the end, and all the pieces Rowling wove within the individual novels requires this whole series to be listed as one piece in my top five. But I’ve always been a series reader—as implied by my inclusion of all-things-Peters in the previous question—so this probably isn’t surprising.


I like these! Of course, I only recognize one of them, but I love to get book recommendations. There’s too  many good writers around to count. 






FAVORITE -Realistic Neon Sign on Brick Wall background






*Name your favorite classic sleuths and how are they different from one another?


I love Miss Marple and Columbo for the same reasons: they pay attention to so much more than just the visible clues and they want to solve the crime to truly give the victim justice—not for accolades or to improve their own position.


I also love to read Martha Grimes’s Inspector Richard Jury series, but primarily the ones where Melrose Plant is involved in the case with him—because I love Melrose. He’s kind of a contemporary Lord Peter Wimsey and I look forward to his arrival in the books each time and the way he impacts the case.


Equally, I especially enjoy unconventional sleuths. I often stay up late on weekends to watch the old Avengers shows with Diana Riggs as Mrs. Peel, to see what kind of off-beat crime she and Steed will solve—usually eminently quirky. And finally, I adore the new BBC Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman because they so perfectly play off one another and show not only Sherlock’s brilliance, but how his almost sociopathic tendency to not consider others is offset by Watson’s tempering humanity—which all comes together to better solve the case and understand the outcome.


I’ve yet to see the Sherlock Holmes series with Cumberbatch, although it’s cued and ready to go. 












*How has reading affected your style of writing?


I think my writing has more often affected my reading style than the reverse. I’ve always been a voracious reader and read across all genres and literary and nonfiction standards. But while I used to be able to read through things that weren’t…shall we say…written as well as they could be, now that isn’t the case. I simply cannot read something filled with bad editing or—especially—are written with unbelievable plots, or if characters begin changing to suit a plot need rather than acting the way they always have. I just stop reading and move on to something else.


I find this very fascinating for some reason. The dynamic relationship between reading and writing is wonderful. I would say a voracious reader would develop a keen eye for the matters you mentioned above. Then developing the writing craft would only serve to sharpen those skills to a whole new level. 













*If you could hire any fictional sleuth to solve a major crime who would it be? Who would be the sidekick?


I would love to see Columbo and Adrian Monk solve a crime together. I know that sounds mean because Columbo just standing next to Monk would probably give the OCD detective a mental breakdown, but to me it would be kind of an American Sherlock/Watson combo. I imagine Columbo would be the humanizing end of the team and Monk would be…well, Monk. But the crime solving could be the absolutely fastest on record with those two brilliant minds working on it at the same time.


 That sounds like a great combination!






private detective road sign concept










*Name 3-5 of your pet peeves as a reader


1)    Love triangles. Hate them. Just pick a guy or girl already and move on to the real story. Don’t let the “which guy will she choose” go on from book to book to book.

2)    Authors who don’t think readers are smart enough to figure things out and try to fill in every single dot or write mostly dialogue and skimp on narrative because it’s easier.

3)    Characters who change from the way they’ve been throughout the story to fit plot problems a writer stumbled into and couldn’t figure how else to get out of.

4)    Unnecessary sex, violence or language as a quick and cheap way to try to heighten the tension.


I always find this one interesting. Writers can learn so much by hearing these.












*How have mysteries changed over the years?


It feels like they’ve become more real to life through the years, but that may just be that I’ve gotten older and read things more contemporary to my life. I still love the old standbys like Christie and Dick Francis and Forsythe, but there are so many new authors like Michael Connelly and Lee Child who write fabulous, exciting mysteries that truly are 21stcentury. I think more than anything, we’re getting more blending of genres, so while we can find straight mysteries still, we also have great combinations we likely wouldn’t have had decades ago. The aforementioned Dirk Gently series, for example, or the fabulous Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz, both of which use humor and contemporary insight as much as they do elements of mystery. Another offbeat cross-genre example is the Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler, or anything by Jasper Fforde.


Wow, great examples here. I’m very interested in this topic for some reason. So intriguing! 







2017 past








*What makes a great mystery?


It must give me something to figure out, and provide good characters I want to spend time with. I’ve read so many mysteries that I’m seldom halfway through a book before I’ve figured out whodunit, and that’s okay, as long as there are still surprises for me to discover as the character(s) still look for clues. I don’t want to know everything about everyone from the beginning, I want that to unfold just like the mystery, so if I solve the mystery halfway along, there’s still something to keep me reading.


That’s wonderful. There’s something so cerebral about solving a good puzzle, especially a ‘whodunit’.  When you weave in great characters, the book is well worth the read.







The Great Unknown Puzzle Pieces Hole Uncharted Exploration Adven











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Benjamin Thomas







Watch “How To Write A Great Villain” on YouTube


With Kristen Martin



















How are you creating your villain? Tell me in the comments!








Up for a reading challenge? Join the Book Hoarders Bucket List Reading Challenge  (Join Goodreads group here)



A Challenge for Book Hoarders Like Me at



Don’t miss the inaugural powerhouse event of 2017!! Check out Mystery Thriller Week on my other site:








Benjamin Thomas



Reading and Inspecting the Sleuth with Ingrid Bouldin





Investigating the reader’s experience…





forensic evidence, 3D rendering, vintage old red sign








“Never theorize before you have the data. Invariably, you end up twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.” -Sherlock Holmes











Everyone please welcome writer Ingrid Bouldin!





The reader’s experience is the best evidence. -Benjamin Thomas






*What is your favorite genre (s)?

I really have no distinct favorites although I can say, I’m not fond of romance novels.  

I read pretty much any genre and love the variety.  You’ll find me reading three to five books at the same time.  Two or three will be fiction of different genres, then a book or two on writing structure, and maybe one that’s research for my own WIPs, etc.

I gravitate towards Murder/Suspense, Crime, Science Fiction…at least for now.
It’s far more important for me to be experiencing a great read that I get absorbed into, versus limiting myself to any particular genre.  Close runner-ups would be Fantasy and YA (yes, young adult!)    

Often, I’ll pick up a classic or what’s currently popular at the time, outside what I might be more inclined to delve into.  I do this because it stretches my brain cells and may spark my interest in some other genre that I otherwise might not think of reading.    

Very good! The exact same taste as I do. 





*What is your educational background?


I’ve had several years of college but alas, no degree…yet.

Since way back, I can’t begin to remember a time that I didn’t create art and have my nose in a book or three, or was ‘covertly writing’ in hidden notebooks.  I grew up in a family where no one else devoured books like I did, much less wrote wacky stories about flying to other planets and talking animals.

Through Junior High, then High School, my focus was initially on
artwork…pen and ink and pencil that lead to several successful one-man art shows.  I had one of my pieces displayed at the Smithsonian / Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. for a month, even.

Straight out of High School, it was determined that I would become a Registered Nurse, so I attended two years of College, Pre-med and clinicals, before I decided nursing was not my cuppa tea.  I left college to marry my High School sweetheart (our 35th Anniversary is today, Sept. 5th!) and two years later, happily began our family as my major shifted to Mom.  I raised our four phenomenal younglings plus semi-fostered a waffling tally of seven other younglings through their school years and into colleges, all the while continuing to do commissioned artwork on the side.

As my younglings became sassy and more independent, I entered the working field as a professional rescuer where I discovered I, by far, preferred being the one to call the shots and make the lifesaving decisions.  I attended formal college level training to the Advanced EMT / Shock Trauma / Cardiac Tech and Enhanced levels… operating as Medic and Training Lieutenant for 27+ years, now currently semi-retired.  My certifications fill two 2″ notebooks.

A few years back, I’d returned to college full time to attend a massive mix of lectures, practicals, clinical rotations, and field duty.  I had zero life beyond academia and regular duty for two full years as I worked towards achieving my AAS Degree in Paramedic Sciences, on the Dean’s list every semester.

As I began the final semester of my two year program, my mother passed away.  It was sudden and unexpected.  I deeply loved her, was close to her in both location and heart, and was entirely devastated.  In the mayhem of closing down my mother’s life and home by myself, I had to pull out of the Paramedic program at the eleventh hour.

Much soul searching later…one day soon I’ll get that Associate’s Degree, but it’ll be a general diploma.  Now I’m following a dream I had back about a hundred fifty years ago, when I was that scrawny little quiet kid that hid notebooks in boxes under her bed.

Navigating through life experiences is by far the greatest education.  Although you never graduate, it constantly teaches you.










*What part of the earth are you in?

I reside on my peaceably beautiful homestead in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  I’m a stone’s throw away from the Shenandoah River and every outdoor activity possible.  From 2014 to this year, I was the Stable Manager and a Professional Horse Wrangler with my string of 30 amazing horses in the heart of the mountains on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Oh my, that sounds so adventurous! I’d love to go there one day.












*Who are your favorite characters?

There is no way on this planet I could narrow down my favorite characters to even a dozen or so!  I’m currently infatuated with Inspector Rebus in the Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus Trilogy.  Also Hitch and Jael in Katie Weiland’s “Storming” novel at the moment.  

Okay, okay… if you’re gonna put my arm behind my back… I adore Sherlock Holmes, Severus Snape and if I can squeeze in a movie character that I’m currently fangirling on (plan to read the books asap) it would be Jason Bourne.  I know I’ve left off at least two or three obvious others that once I push the ‘Send’ button will pop into my mind and complain about being left out…

I don’t know Inspector Rebus, but I’m acquainted with Jael and my good buddy Hitch. Quite a treat aren’t they?  Oh yeah, Jason Bourne and I are pretty tight.  Don’t say anything though. He’s still undercover.




*Favorite books?

Good grief!  Again, you’re asking the impossible of me, Benjamin!

Every Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code”, “Angels and Demons”, and “Inferno”.

Nearly all the Stephen King’s, every Agatha Christie, the entire collection of “Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  

J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series believe it or not, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, “Lord of the Rings” and every Grimm’s Fairy Tales…(which I got into trouble for sneaking in 4th grade, I was black opping it to the 6th grade section of the school library to read them and had to get a permission slip from my mom so I could ‘officially’ access the 6th Grade level books that I could barely reach…yeah, making trouble wherever I go *;) winking)

Also the first seven of Patricia Cornwell’s “Scarpetta” series, along with her fascinating theory in “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper”, also Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island”. 

Asking me which book is my favorite is exactly the same as asking me which of my children is my favorite…how in the name of Odin am I supposed to be able to answer that, eh?

There is never a wrong answer to this question. Seeing everyone’s’ favorites is exciting. 













*What do you like most about reading?

What do I like the most about reading…..hmmm.
This answer’s not as hard to pin down as the others.

When I pick up a book, cradle it in my hands…all eBooks aside, there’s so much more than paper, printed letters, and compressed cardboard there.  More than I can put into words well enough to know, beyond any slight shadow of a doubt, that you’ve grasped what reading truly means to me.


That’s probably the one word I would choose if I had to narrow it down to that.
Reading is a sanctuary for me, an amazing adventure, mystery, journey to some place I’ve never been with fictional characters that become so flesh and blood while I read that I feel as if I met them somewhere along my life, and miss them once that last page has been read.  

Reading gives me that respite from what ails me along the path of life.
And then there’s the learning about new places and worlds, civilizations and eras, and…..

I have sacrificed precious sleep more times than I will confess, all in the name of the next chapter that I must just read a little more of.

That’s a great way of putting it, Ingrid!













“Reading is a sanctuary for me, an amazing adventure, mystery, journey to some place I’ve never been with fictional characters that become so flesh and blood while I read that I feel as if I met them somewhere along my life, and miss them once that last page has been read.” -Ingrid Bouldin





*What do you appreciate about Inspector Rebus in the Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus Trilogy?
The first and second installments of the Inspector Rebus Trilogy, penned by Ian Rankin, are my most recently read novels in the Murder / Crime genre. I’d been wanting to read this trilogy for quite some time and finally was able to get to it.

I’ve enjoyed “Knots And Crosses” (1987) and “Hide And Seek” (1991) quite a bit!
The ‘Tartan Noir’ aspects of Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector John Rebus are well met in the story lines of both novels thus far.  Descriptions of local spots around Edinburgh that Ian Rankin gently places into his narratives effectively pull the reader into vivid depictions of each location, affording credibility to his settings…both good spots and the ‘bad’, like back alleys and abandoned buildings, as if the reader’s been placed directly into Edinburgh and not some postcard depiction.

I’m looking forward to getting to the third installment of this trilogy, “Tooth And Nail” (1992).  There also are just over a dozen more Inspector Rebus novels that carry this character on beyond the trilogy.  I’ve definitely found these first two interesting enough to keep with this series beyond the third book, “Tooth And Nail”.

I found Rankin’s smooth writing easy to get lost in as he blends a certain gruff, “hard boiled” twist to the main character’s disillusioned, slightly non-compliant persona that conflicts with his inner turmoil.  The Inspector pushes his limits a bit against the grain to get the job done, at times in a sort of bumbling, human way.  This, in spite of his own personal problems along with inner political issues within his job.

Inspector Rankin is probably the second most contemporary detective I’ve read (the first being Patricia Cromwell’s Kay Scarpetta).  That being said, this trilogy’s publication dates are still dated enough to make the lack of today’s modern technology a bit noticeable and a little odd to have it missing in the narrative… he has to find land lines to make phone calls, rely on maps, etc., kind of a flash back to the late eighties situation which lends a unique voice to this trilogy, not such a bad thing and rather vintage.  Different than say, an Agatha Christie when you know you’ll be warping backwards by nearly a century.

What I appreciate about Ian Rankin’s character is Rebus’ humanness, the way he occasionally has to fall back and punt when he’s run out of clues, quite literally at times…and has to still deal with life in general, for better or worse, along the way like the rest of us.  In the first of the trilogy, Rebus must overcome an overwhelming past experience that threatens to be more than he can deal with, an interesting sub-plot that presents without a clear and obvious solution. 

I’m going to have to meet this Inspector Rebus. Interesting name isn’t it?


*Who are your top 5-10 sleuths? What do you appreciate about them?

1.  “Sherlock Holmes” – Author / Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — “The greatest Detective who never lived”.  I adore Sherlock Holmes and have since I first read this collection when I was about ten years old.
This memorably grouchy, introverted, antisocial character solves murders and crimes utilizing aspects that I find very interesting myself…Sherlock Holmes combines forensic science, his extensive knowledge of medical sciences, and his keen powers of observation and unbiased deductive reasoning to decipher clues and hunt down suspects.  Often on the run while thinking on his feet.

Sherlock is also purported to be a fairly rare MBTI personality type known as INTJ, which I am myself…another likely reason I appreciate this character no matter who portrays him, or whether I find him solving crimes in the pages of a book, via tv, or on the big screen.  Not thinking linearly like 99% of people do, but rather in three dimensions, the contemporary version of Sherlock Holmes accesses his Mind Palace with an ability to store information for retrieval at any time which is supposedly a trait of this personality type.  I’d love to think so anyway!

No matter what the medium, any version of Inspector Holmes has him discovering solutions by going outside the box while using unconventional thought processes with total disregard of social standards…offending nearly everyone as he goes along much to the chagrin of his sidekick, Dr. John Watson.

You could say I’ve pretty much loved every rendition of Sherlock and Watson…from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories, Basil Rathbone’s late 1930 b&w portrayals, all the way to the current Benjamin Cumberbatch version.  My gravitation towards murder mysteries began the minute I read “A Study In Scarlet”, the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes that led to other installments resulting in Holmes becoming so well loved by the populous that when Sir Doyle wrote Sherlock plunging to his death at Reichenbach Falls at the hands of (and with) his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, all of London rebelled.  I can understand that, I was young and devastated myself when I read that moment of Sherlock’s ultimate sacrifice…the feels.  I’m pretty sure I was in a foul mood for weeks.

2.  Kay Scarpetta – Author / Patricia Cornwell — Once again, here’s another character I totally enjoy reading.  Cornwell portrays Kay Scarpetta as a confident, strong female protagonist.  In a male-dominated genre no less!

Scarpetta utilizes quick-thinking intelligence and forensic technology to solve murders and stay alive as she pursues killers, yet dodge her own premature demise.  This series first novel begins with Scarpetta as the Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, out of Richmond.  Cornwell modeled Kay Scarpetta after real life M.E., Dr. Marcella Farinalli Fierro, based out of Richmond.

I’ve read the first nine consecutive novels in this series, all fast-paced and undeniably a series that compels me to stay up reading all night.  Kay Scarpetta is written realistically, preserving her character as intelligent with an astute, sophisticated ability to not lose her own self, her integrity or her compassion in a high stress occupation.  She deals with real world problems, both personal and professional yet remains focused on solving the crime even under adverse conditions.  More than capable of taking care of herself, she still recognizes her own vulnerability and sees her own flaws.

This is not an easy character to convert to written word in any way without it coming across as false and two dimensional yet Cornwell does this, and creates a character that grows with the progression of each chronologically progressive novel.

One unique aspect of this story line are the oft times, true to life descriptives of scenes, diagnostics and procedures involved in solving the murders…an inside look at the world of present day forensic sciences which I’ve found fascinating though undeniably, not everyone’s cuppa tea.  Cornwell changes the narrative POV from book to book at times which gives the reader the experience of different perspectives within the same character series…an interesting and somewhat unique approach, at least for this genre.

This book series is the inspiration for several current popular Crime tv shows, such as “CSI”.  I’ve found Patricia Cornwell’s blending of narrative, action, and technical info fascinating across the board.

3.  Hercule Poirot – Author / Agatha Christie —  I very much enjoy vintage Detective stories. Undeniably,  Agatha Christie spun these yarns with classic suspense as the ‘Queen of Crime’, creating Detective Hercule Poirot as an absolute opposite of the vast majority of grizzled inspectors, to be sure.

A Belgian Detective and perfectionist at heart, Poirot practices sleuthing via use of his self-described “little grey cells”, preferring to solve murders in a manner that will preserve the upturned, perfectly groomed tips of his magnificently impeccable mustache, and without scuffs to his impeccable shoes.

Quite a change from other sleuths, the neat and tidy Detective Poirot with his frequent stomach issues usually stages a classic great reveal to a room full of people by story’s end in true Agatha Christie style.  This “opposites” approach Agatha Christie used as she created Poirot’s fastidious obsessions produced an interesting protagonist that proved immensely popular over time, and I found just as interesting decades after his creation…once again, at a very young age.

(3 and 4 are a close tie)

4.  Inspector John Rebus – Author / Ian Rankin — Pretty much covered up there ↑.  I plan to be reading the third in the trilogy soon and hope to go on from there with Ian Rankin’s numerous further adventures with Inspector Rebus.

From this point, I can’t say that I’ve read complete collections of other singular Detective characters or sleuthing authors recently enough for me to be comfortable commenting on them.  Most of the Crime / Mystery novels I’ve read were from many years ago but included some Ellery Queen, Sam Spade and “The Maltese Falcon”, Edgar Allan Poe’s character C. Auguste Dupin in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robt. Louis Stevenson, and others.  Several suspense novels, and other genres, etc.

I am in no way an authority on Detective / Crime novels and have definitely not read all the works of these authors, or all the novels in any Crime / Detective series.  Hercule Poirot alone has somewhere around thirty novels to this character.

Awesome! If this were the NBA and you had one more sleuth, these would be your starting five!
private detective road sign concept

*What do you like most about crime thrillers? Is it the hunt? The suspense? A meaty hook?

That’s a good question, Benjamin!

I believe I love this genre because of that classic challenge, the thrill of the hunt.  I enjoy the settings, the exotic characters, the mysterious unfolding of plots as I read along to uncover clues along the way, at times along with the characters.  Other times, deciphering whodunnit and solutions in some Sherlockian fashion as I read to the end.

I enjoy the suspense, the cerebral exercise, the stretching of the “little grey cells” and the challenge to see by the story’s last page if I was right or not.  And if not, what it was that stumped me.  I like figuring out solutions to seemingly impossible problems…some labyrinth that makes me think outside the box.  It’s good to know when I’ve deduced the solution on my own brain power which is it’s own reward. Not to mention, a good mystery is it’s own form of escapism.

The plot and story line are far more important to me than a meaty hook! Sure, it’s great to grab my attention but if the rest of the story can’t keep me absorbed in the plot line…
That’s right on the money. I enjoy the same cerebral exercises!

*Name your favorite Murder/Crime/Mystery/Thrillers of 2016. (In no particular order)

I’ve been writing myself, Beta reading for others, reading outside this genre and catching up on Technical Writing, Paramedic and so forth. My fiction Murder / Crime / Mystery reading’s been pretty limited for 2016 which I’ve recently been changing so that I’ll get more of this genre under my belt, it’s been awhile and I’ve missed it.

By default, I would have to say the Inspector Rebus novels have been pretty good thus far for 2016 although recently reading Dennis LeHane’s “Shutter Island” might qualify for a mystery thriller!

Great, I love hearing the best reads of the year. I’ll take all your recommendations. 



Benjamin Thomas