It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of writers share their thoughts and experiences. I encourage you to check out their posts by clicking on the icon at the bottom.
Developing interesting and intriguing characters is one of the primary challenges for any writer of fiction. Unlike non-fiction subjects, these characters exist only in the writer’s mind. It’s up to the author to bring them to life and make them believable.
All writers get asked how they go about selecting and creating characters. For me, each of my novels revolves around one or two protagonists. The way these characters are developed and how the reader learns about them are as important as who they are and the roles they play in the story.
In real life, the way you learn about people is through observation. How an individual looks and acts, how he/she relates to others, and his/her interests and values are all things you primarily see and learn, and are not always told to you. This should also be the case with fictional characters.
Let’s take a look at Jack Fowler, the lead character in the murder mystery I’m currently writing, BUTCHER ROAD.
The novel opens with Jack out for an evening walk when his nose directs him to a decaying corpse in an abandoned house. In that scene, the foul odor reminds Jack of his military experience, having returned from Afghanistan two years prior. He has a brief flashback before shaking it off and reengaging in the present. During the same scene, he interacts with police officer, Al Walker. Their banter portrays Jack as a no-nonsense guy, unafraid to challenge authority and get involved.
In just a few pages, the reader is introduced to Jack Fowler. Very little backstory is used during this introduction, and these pages establish a base for Jack’s character going forward.
One other trick that helps me be consistent with character development is to build a profile of my main characters. I refer to this profile from time to time as these characters appear and evolve throughout the novel. If this does nothing else, it prevents characters changing hair color from chapter to chapter. Below is Jack Fowler’s profile:
- Physical Description
- Tall, athletic, dark hair, blue eyes, conservative/basic attire
- Values & Interests
- Family, career, relationships, community, outdoor activities
- No-nonsense, unafraid, patriotic, caring, dry humor, takes responsibility
- Other traits
- Successfully fighting PTSD symptoms
Every suspense novel interjects tension and conflict into the life of its protagonists. It is this tension and conflict that make the characters interesting and compelling. How they engage, resolve or fall victim to conflict should also be consistent and fit their profile.
The sources of Jack Fowler’s tension in BUTCHER ROAD are many. He faces a struggle to overcome PTSD symptoms. Fellow police officers are resentful of his fast rise in the department. A new relationship with Angela Jones, a Charlotte detective, has him balancing his personal and professional life. Most importantly, Jack becomes entangled in a serial murder case where he and Detective Jones become the targets of the killer.
So that’s Jack Fowler. If you’d like to assess how I did introducing Jack, you can read the first chapter of BUTCHER ROAD by clicking HERE. I’d appreciate your comments.
Thanks for stopping by my blog. Please check out what other writers participating in this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop have to say by clicking HERE.