Using Real to Create the Fake 🎨


Hi, all—

Lately, I've been thinking about characters. Specifically, the events that make up a person's life before a novel even opens. You know: the backstory. Although these events are forged in a writer's imagination, they're crucial to creating characters that are believable—whether or not that backstory ends up getting woven into the prose of the book.

As you know, I'm currently writing Chokepoint, book 4 in my Deception Point series. Because this predominately Army CID series crossed a Navy jurisdictional line at the end of book 3, the protagonist for this next installment is NCIS Agent Mira Ellis. 

If you've finished Aimpoint, you're familiar with Mira. As her creator, so was an extent. When I first crafted Mira, she was a foil for one of her best friends/the main lead of the entire series: Regan Chase. I knew the broad strokes of course: how Mira felt about Regan and how & why they'd become friends. I also knew how Mira felt about her job and the particulars of the case she brought to Regan's attention at the beginning of the series.

But that was big picture stuff. I'd yet to truly get inside Mira's head. Nor did I have a clue as to how she felt on a day-to-day basis.

If you're not familiar with the term, I write in what's called "third-person, deep point of view". This means that, as a reader, you get the running commentary in my main character's heads, unfiltered. You "hear" their reaction to pretty much every person & situation she/he encounters throughout the novel...even the lies and the snark.😏

For me to begin to write that deeply for a character who already exists as a "shallower", supporting character, I had to go back to the beginning. I needed to think through the turning points that made up Mira's life—everything from what happened in her parents' failed marriage to how that led to her career choices. I had to think about Mira's other relatives and friends too. I even had to know who Mira dated & why they'd broken up. And I especially had to work through a significant event that occurred mere weeks before Chokepoint opens—because this event not only colors Mira's current thoughts, it affects her suspicions regarding her new partner, NCIS Agent Sam Riyad, and drives their professional and personal relationship.

So how do I begin to create all this for Mira & other figments of my imagination? By using reality as a spring board.

Think about your experiences. Are there events that impacted you to an extent that you ended up changing where you live, what you do for a living, or even who you love? I'm betting yes. I know even minor events in my own life have morphed into turning points, changing me in ways I couldn't have predicted. My husband's too.

As I've mentioned before, I crossed the service branches when I married. I was Navy, but my husband was Army. He was also several years older. When we met on a blind date shortly after my commissioning, the man was already a graduate of West Point & a qualified combat engineer on the verge of pinning on captain. But my husband's path was not typical or easy. This amazing man graduated high school at 17, but because of harsh childhood experiences, he had no idea where he wanted to go in life—nor did he possess the funding to get there. So he enlisted in the Army. Following training as a forward observer, my husband was sent to Baumholder, Germany. 

But a funny thing happened after his arrival. His sergeant needed someone who knew how to type, and my husband was the only one who raised his hand. That skill—unusual among men then—often placed him in the company HQ as a private and in view of other sergeants. This exposure led to his selection as soldier of the month, then of the year—and that led to a slot at the Army's prep school and, eventually, to the military academy at West Point where he graduated near the top of his class with a degree in operations research & a minor in nuclear engineering.

All because he could type.

Naturally, Mira's life and the events that led the NCIS agent to who she is at the beginning of Chokepoint are radically different. But the concept is the same: Mira started here, then this happened, which led to this—and voila! She has a backstory that's now multi-layered & textured enough to support & carry her through that deep point of view embedded in the next Deception Point thriller. And, yep, there are more than a few twists & turns for the woman to confront along the way. 

I can't wait to share them with you.😁


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