Characters Make the Pages Turn

  • April 24, 2019

Hearing from readers is one of my favorite things about this gig, and my very favorite thing to hear is that they love my characters. A quick email telling me you adore Nichelle or were rooting for Faith will make my day brighter guaranteed, because as a reader, the characters are always paramount—give me a smart heroine I can get behind, and I will follow her anywhere, y’all. For favorites, I will stand in a midnight line at the bookstore or stay up until 12:01 to be the first to get a book on my kindle—and conversely, if I don’t like the characters, chances are pretty darned good I’m not going to finish the book.

Don’t get me wrong, the best characters ever conceived can’t save a big dull dud of a plot, or a mystery that doesn’t make sense or lacks tension—but if I don’t care about a single character in a thrilling story, a stellar ending to a whole gauntlet of twists won’t get me to keep reading.

Since I write the kinds of books I like to read, I love Nichelle and Faith both with my whole heart—but I promise, neither of them is me. I get the question way more often about Nichelle because she does my old job (I didn’t have the sexy mafia guy or the near death experiences, though), so for the record: no. While they both have my scary-specific memory and affinity for good coffee, that’s about where the similarity ends. If I try to walk in more than a 2-inch heel, it’s a guarantee I’m going to turn an ankle or do a spectacular face plant before the end of the evening, I’ve been happily married for nearly 20 years, and I’ve never fired (or even held) a gun outside a shooting range.

It sounds hokey and contrived, but it’s the God’s honest truth: they are them. Nichelle was wearing the ridiculous shoes the first time she popped into my head, and while I’ll confess I’ve wanted to write about a female Texas Ranger for years, Faith barreled in fully…Faith, complete with her Marlboro habit. Y’all, I lost my mother to emphysema caused by smoking, and can’t even imagine a universe in which I would purposely create a character who smokes. But as hard as I tried to make Faith stop it when I was writing Fear No Truth, it’s as much as part of her as the breakneck heels are part of Nichelle. She’s as stubborn about it as my mother was, and her spunk definitely has a bit of my mom—but I’m hoping Faith will decide she wants to quit someday. I certainly intend to keep writing her long enough to give her plenty of opportunity, at any rate.

What about you, friends? What’s your favorite element of a good book? Let me know!

With much affection,