Full Article by Dennis Palumbo
The following italicized sections are from the article and I posted them because they contain some great brainstorming questions for beginning a mystery novel. Please click the link above to review the article in its entirety.
For me, there's only one answer: ask yourself, what makes you unique? What scares you, interests you, makes you angry? What do you yearn for, or wish to avoid? What are your hobbies, passions? What's the aspect of your own character about which you're most conflicted, unhappy, even embarrassed? Believe it or not, this is where the seeds of an interesting, unusual protagonist are first sewn.
So why don't you start by making a list of your own traits and interests, as suggested above? The closer the hero or heroine of your mystery story is to you, the more vivid and engaging he or she will be to the viewer. After all, as Emerson said, "To know that what is true for you in your private heart is true for everyone - that is genius."
Next, let's look at the world of your mystery story. What is the world you inhabit? Suburban soccer mom or single father? Former football coach, magazine editor, or Rhodes scholar? Travel agent, computer specialist, or kindergarten teacher?
After all, you know the details of your particular world so clearly. You know the ins and outs. It's those details that create the backdrop for the crime, that make possible the intrigue, the collision of misleading, back-stabbing, or too-good-to-be-true characters. Think of the gambling background in the movieOcean's 11. Or that of the legal profession in The Firm.