Suspicious Characters

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Nothing about her looked like him - they were strangers in a dark alley, ships passing in the night.

Submitted: November 15, 2017

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Submitted: November 15, 2017



To make a character look and act suspicious without giving too much away endow said character with the subliminal appearance of a carnival magician. Yet, first it shall be of notable help if we simply look up the definition of ‘suspicious’. This will give us a more thorough understanding of our goal, and also prime our creative juices pump so we can enthuse into the psychoemotional ambiance of suspicious characters.

The definition of ‘suspicious’ is doubtful, dubious, distrustful, disreputable, wary, mysterious, strange, nervous, apprehensive - the example sentence given by the dictionary is “He was suspicious of her motives.”

Of course, a suspicious name is of key importance in creating a suspicious character.  Without giving too much away we can increase the suspicious nature of a character by referring to he or she (we don’t even really have to identify a gender) mysteriously as “Patient X” or “The Stalker” or “The Unknown”.  Other names which ooze with suspicion are Boss Bane, Brimley Stoker, O’Leen Gater, Alley Gutman, Red Buzzard, Slake Volkheim, Drago Szandor, the Duke of Vulture Swamp, and the like.

Now we are venturing deep into suspicious character territory whence we can give subtle hints of carnival magician stereotype to the character we want to look and act suspicious.

If we dress our character up in top-hat, cape, and wand, then we have given too much away, it becomes obvious what the character is. We want an indirect subconscious approach in order to achieve optimum suspicious characterization.

Since we do not want to give too much away while at the same time making our character look and act suspicious, we simply add the stereotypical well-trimmed thin mustache or beard with dark slicked-back hair if our character is male, and dark slicked-back hair with blood-red lipstick and rouge if our character is female. Whether male or female, our character should have ghostly corpse-like skin and be attired in full-length drab garb.

A letter arrives in the mail addressed to our suspicious character, the return address is a grimly named secret society. While stealthily creeping out to the mailbox, our suspicious character should be constantly looking over his or her shoulder as if in fear of being covertly observed or accosted by cunning assailants.

Our character shouldn’t say too much, because a person who is quiet while others speak in lively conversation naturally seems uncanny and suspicious due to his or her odd silence. When our suspicious character does speak, what he or she says should be disturbingly pithy and succinct, blunt and to-the-point.

People who are mostly quiet - yet on the rare occasion when they do speak make profoundly bold statements in few words - emit an eerie aura of mystery and paranormal power. Such a character is profusely imbued with a macabre persona of suspicion while at the same time not giving too much away.

Alternatively, we may dress our character in shabby clothes, giving also a hump on his or her back, describe them as with their lips perpetually in motion, have others in the story whisper rumors that this is because the character is saying his or her prayers backwards.

The character should gather sticks, or old ragged dolls which have been thrown out on the trash heap. In order to be suspicious without giving too much away our character should also have galled and rheumy eyes, or better yet, a patch over one eye with the only visible eye galled and rheumy - furtive and watchful, always casting about with sidelong glances!

Our character can walk with a limp and always be seen wearing a blood red rose on lapel or a brooch of occult crystal, or even a funeral urn pendant. A dark veil over the face creates morbid suspicion without giving too much away, or similarly a trench coat with the collar raised and a fedora pulled down low over the eyes, or even a tartan twilled cloth three-piece suit, skull-topped walking stick, and awkward toupee if male - striped stockings, feather net fascinator, and gaudy wig if female.

To make a character suspicious without giving too much away we can have our character be pursued by unknown observers. Why are these shady characters following our suspicious character? Who are they? Why are they spying on our suspicious character? What do they want? Is our suspicious character in danger? Is our suspicious character an evil threat to society? A smuggler? An alien shapeshifter from another world?

Another strategy for making a character suspicious without giving too much away is to have the character always present when something bad happens to someone else. A brick falls on the head of an innocent bystander in a crowd of people and somewhere lurking in the crowd we catch a glimpse of our suspicious character.

A speeding car hits a cyclist in the bike lane, staring from a window of the tall building opposite is our suspicious character. A bolt of lightning strikes a golfer on the fairway, our suspicious character is watching silently from the rough under a shadowy umbrella. A three-year-old thoroughbred tumbles head-over-heels breaking the jockey’s neck on the backstretch at Mortimer Downs, in the grandstand a fleeting peek of our suspicious character.

A really creepy tactic for making a character look and act suspicious without giving too much away is this scenario: A clown is hired for a child’s birthday party, but at the last minute the scheduled clown calls in sick for a replacement. The replacement clown is our suspicious character.

To witness firsthand how I apply these semiotic principles in grippingly suspenseful practice, you may read the thrilling stories I’ve written in which I have crafted many characters who look and act suspicious without giving too much away.

The cryptic tomes penned by mystery author Sean Terrence Best may be added to your personal collection via Books-A-Million,, Barnes&Noble, and many other booksellers.

© Copyright 2018 Sean Terrence Best. All rights reserved.

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