on Career Authors:
One of the richest places to mine a character is through experiences that have left a deep mark on them—those memories that are still ultra-tender to the touch (or thought). As a thriller writer, my goal is to create an intricate web where everything in the novel connects to something else. Sometimes the thinnest connections from a character’s past can make or break a strong plot.
For my latest novel, Whereabouts Unknown, I spent a lot of time exploring the past of a teen who has the autoimmune disorder Lupus. When we meet Annabelle, there is a mountain of pain beneath her surface, and I knew digging into that pain had to be the key to solving the crime at the novel’s center. What I needed was to find the source of Annabelle’s vulnerability and doubt to ultimately understand her motivation.
My favorite scholar of vulnerability, Brene Brown, says “Vulnerability is at the core, the center of meaningful human experiences.” Vulnerability makes our characters feel like relatable humans, gives them something to overcome and, ultimately, makes them stronger people. So much of that vulnerability begins in our character’s past.
This gets to the heart of why it’s so essential that our main characters be as alive and complex on the page as they are inside our heads. Here are three tips to help you achieve just that.