Friday, April 30, 2021

THE IMPORTANCE OF FLAWED CHARACTERS

 (This was originally posted on The BOLO Squad, a private FB page for readers of CF Romantic Suspense. If you’re not a member yet, just search for The BOLO Squad on Facebook and ask to join!)

What draws you into a story? Is it the plot…or is it the characters? I think the answer is both. Yet how many times have you liked a story but just couldn’t connect to the characters? It happens a lot.

I write suspense and cozy mystery. In both cases, the characters need to be compelling. For cozy mystery, they tend to be interesting and a little bit eccentric. It’s also helpful if they’re funny. Cozy mystery should be fun. The mystery needs to keep you turning the pages, but the characters make the story richer. They tend to influence the overall feel of the book.

However, in suspense, the characters need to be deeper. They will face uncomfortable and even dangerous situations. The plot will most probably challenge them because of their past. How many suspenseful books have happy-go-lucky characters who had perfect childhoods and who whistle their way through shootings, kidnappings, serial killers or…whatever? It could happen, but I’m guessing that by the end of the story, they won’t be whistling anymore!

Some question why the characters in suspense usually have unhappy backgrounds. The reason? Almost all of us have had hurts in our past. With characters that the reader can relate to, when our story takes a dark twist or turn, our characters will react in a way the reader understands. For example, my character, Alex Donovan, who is in my Quantico Files series, lost her parents when she was young. She had to move in with a mentally ill aunt who didn’t know how to keep her house clean. Alex, as a 12-year-old girl, had to spend her first night in her aunt’s house, sitting on a chair in her bedroom, keeping an eye out for the roaches that scurried out when she turned out the light. Because of that, she developed a fear of the dark. Now, when something happens in my story that puts Alex in the dark, the reader can relate to her reaction.

In inspirational suspense, it’s even more important. I want readers to relate to the character’s journey out of fear through the love and deliverance we can find in Christ. If they can understand a character’s spiritual struggle, hopefully, it will minister to them personally. That’s the most important reason I write – to let readers know that there is hope in Christ for whatever they’re facing. I want to bring them closer to the One who has the answer to every fear or challenge we encounter.

Has a certain character in a mystery or suspense novel really connected to you in a personal way? Tell us about it. I’ll pick one random answer and that person will win a Kindle copy of NIGHT FALL, the first book in my Quantico Files series.

Nancy Mehl

 

4 comments:

  1. no
    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  2. I really connected with Raleigh Harmon, the main character of Sibella Giorello's mystery-suspense books. I had to deal with a mentally ill family member when I was a child. I also had some strong people to rely on as well. But the craziness, unpredictability, and damage from the mentally ill person changed me from a cheerful, confident child to a very serious, withdrawn child ... and adult. It takes a while for me to trust people, I'm hypersensitive to everyone, and I'm quick to defend anyone who is harassed. Most people see me as a confident, successful person, but they don't know the insecurities and triggers inside of me. Raleigh is a strong, smart, and savvy PI, but she's also vulnerable in certain ways because of her traumatic experiences growing up. They shaped her choice of career and motivate her decisions. I think most people in real life have learned to be competent as adults but can be triggered by negative things from childhood. I like to read about characters like that. They feel real to me.

    PatchesDanny at Yahoo dot com

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  3. I get creeped out when I think of Alex sitting in her aunt's house! Great story that will keep the reader on the edge of her seat!

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  4. I love Holly from CC Warren's Criss Cross series. I can identify with the way that she has issues with her past and wants to move past them. I love the way that she accepts her own quirks and those of her friends, and I think we all need people like that, purple socks, marshmallows, and all. ;-)

    amybradsher at gmail dot com

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