Sherlock Holmes. House. Nancy Drew. The CSI and Law and Order franchises. The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. Longmire. Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Shaft. Sam Spade.
The list of famous detectives and indelible detective stories is endless and grows every year. They include characters and settings that encompass a wide range of racial, gender, nationality and socio-economic demographics.
Detective stories might be the most enduring staple of Western popular culture. They are everywhere we look. At the heart of every successful story is an immensely unique and compelling lead character, usually flawed or eccentric in some capacity.
In this entertaining and interactive writing activity for secondary students, young writers create a compelling detective character that they later can use in short stories, flash fiction, graphic novels or scripts for movies, television shows and video games. Students find incredible joy when they get to construct a detective from pure imagination. There’s really nothing like it as a feat of creativity and this activity never fails to garner 100-percent participation from students because they all love detective stories in one form or another.
The Detective Story Character Questionnaire is a list of 29 questions students answer with rapid responses. These responses enable the writer to later shape the detective’s character and back story.
This is an ideal lesson for secondary English teachers as well as creative writing, drama and video production instructors. It could be easily paired with a video of famous detective show or reading a classic story of detective fiction.
At the conclusion of the questionnaire are five exercises that encourage the student to better define the detective’s character and voice. Once the student begins to define the detective’s character and voice, the story’s plot often presents itself and the young writer is off and running. The motivation takes over. The results are fascinating.