copyright 2012 by Ron Adams
So I have recently been trying to read a little more, and I have discovered a series that is new to me, but has been around for a little while now. I have written before about crossing genres, and I have found an author I think does an excellent job of it, and is a great example of how to successfully mix two seemingly unlike types of stories. The author’s name is Jim Butcher, and he is the creator of the Dresden Files.
For those of you unaware of the novels, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is the only openly practicing wizard in Chicago, and is a special consultant to the Chicago P.D. He works with Lt. Karen Murphy and the rest of the Special Investigations unit on the weirdest, most bizarre, and
often supernatural cases. Now, I know it sounds a little like Harry Potter meets Sam Spade, and there is that element to the stories that has a great deal of appeal to me. But the things I find in these novels are the things that appeal to me in general as a reader of good mysteries.
First of all, Harry Dresden is a remarkably complex and well drawn out character, with so many traits that ground him in this world while making him an extraordinary fantasy hero. He is seriously flawed, , from his early experiences with magic that resulted in him killing his own uncle, to his constant fight to protect his friends and the city of Chicago from the baddest
of the supernatural bad guys. Because, you see, this is the 21st Century and there is no such thing as magic. Or so he is told, anyway.
And about those bad guys. I am three novels into the series and already poor Harry has had to face demons, vampires, werewolves of every description, and sorcerers, which I have discovered are very different from wizards. They all provide the perfect study in contrast, and in some ways
comparison to Dresden. The secondary characters are equally compelling, from the tough and determined Murphy and her squad of skeptics, to the wise cracking, netherworld weary spirit named Bob upon whom Harry depends for help, guidance and reference. It is a rich tapestry woven well, making the fantastic seem possible, in an all too gritty sense of reality. Make no mistake about it, this is not the wizarding world of Harry Potter. This is an urban environment that is at once a setting and a secondary character, in the way truly good thrillers use the setting as a means to propel the story and not just background.
So in the midst of all the entertainment from this remarkable series, I am learning more and more that I can apply to my own writing. I don’t think Joe Banks will ever become a wizard, or a sorcerer for that matter. But there is something to be learned from the characterizations, conflicts, the use of settings, and tempo to improve my own writing, and to better breakdown stories to help others with their writing.