So, I am definitely writing a hard-boiled detective mystery. BUT... the whole NIGHT WINDOW premise doesn't work. The night manager of a seedy downtown motel is more or less stuck behind that window. You have to keep coming up with plausible reasons for him to leave.
One solution is to have the events at night send him off on an adventure, but the point at which all the action and dialogue is taking place elsewhere, what's the point of putting him behind the window? He could just as easily be a garbage collector or tax accountant. In fact, both of those jobs give a better reason to be in someone else's business.
Stuck behind that window, he's basically an observer, a stand-in for the reader or a mouthpiece for the author, a way for her to ruminate on social ills or political philosophy or whatever, which isn't really my thing.
It would work as a short story, or as a series of shorts, but the events would have to be confined to the motel, which is exactly what Quentin Tarantino and company did with the movie "Four Rooms," and I don't need to replicate that.
There's probably a way to do it, but at some point you have to ask yourself why keep the restriction. The reason protagonists in these kinds of stories are always cops or P.I.s or reporters is because those people already have a built-in reason to be out and about, asking questions, meeting unusual people, and getting into all kinds of scrapes. I was spending all my time working through reasonable, believable ways just to get him to the point where all the interesting stuff happens.
In getting to this point, though, I decided I really liked the characters I was building. Nate, the central protagonist, isn't done yet, but I have a skeleton. He's an ex-con, a slob, a comic reader, and a fan of 80s music and 80s porn. He's on a slow burn. He lives rent-free at the motel for reasons we don't exactly know. He was a teenage hacker. He got caught once when he was 13 and was given probation. He got caught again at 19, despite being careful. The FBI didn't get him on the hacking, although they knew it was him. They got him for pirating movies, the punishment for which is stupidly severe.
He would've done his time and got out if not for the actions in prison, which I'm still working through, but they involve him having to join a skinhead gang just to avoid being killed. But whatever happened, it changed him forever. He started lifting weights. He learned to fight. And there was one terrible event that both lengthened his sentence and taught him to chill and enjoy life, however short that may be.
As a condition of his eventual release, he isn't allowed to own a computer, which means no smart phone either. He accepts it. Now an adult, he wants to stay as far as he can from his teenage life. For him, technology was an addiction, and he relates to it like an ex-drunk, both miserable and happy to be free -- and constantly fighting to stay that way. He is, as he says, living the low-tech high life.
So, for the purposes of the story, he's capable of navigating technology, and in fact the plot will revolve around that, but he prefers to use the classic methods of the detective, sneaking around and talking to people, if only to stay off the radar. But that of course means he's always having to bum people's phones.
The guy he cons into helping, sort of, is a 60-something year-old African-American who works maintenance at the motel but who, it turns out, used to be a street gang killer-for-hire in his youth, and a pretty vicious one at that. Oscar Hawkins, who goes by Rosco (old slang for a revolver), had a hard life, and it's going to be very hard to write him and not come off like a racist douche.
In and out of prison his whole life, Roz has finally lost a lot of the anger that drove him to violence, although he can switch back to it in a snap. (Think Clint Eastwood's character in "Unforgiven.") In fact, he has much the same relation to violence that Nate has to technology. Both are happy to have left that part of their lives behind.
But that life has left him suspicious and self-serving, and he's constantly demanding to be paid. He resents getting involved in the larger events of the story, and although he superficially blames Nate for it, he also respects what Nate is trying to do, and from an author's point of view, a lot of the flak he gives is ultimately to keep Nate alive, despite that the latter doesn't much seem to care whether he lives or dies.
Then there's Candace, AKA "Candy," a little person and mother of two, one of whom is also little. Now in her 50s, Candace made a lot of money moonlighting as a hooker, the infamous "Half Price Special." Now she lives a superficially normal suburban life but is in fact an absolutely ruthless madame/pimp.
There are several antagonists, but right now I expect most of the plot will revolve around a rival hacker from Nate's past who is holding a global pharmaceutical company for ransom after supposedly hacking their pacemakers and insulin pumps, which have been surgically implanted in some 30,000 people worldwide and which can't exactly be switched out without expensive and potentially life-threatening surgery. Working with the FBI, the company recruits Nate's help finding his old nemesis.
Of course, it's not that simple.
New working title is HIGH AND LOW, playing on the themes of high and low crimes, high and low society, high and low technology, and of course searching high and low for a would-be killer/hacker/terrorist.