How I Create A Multi-Layered Character

Barry Hoffman
I write suspense novels from a female perspective; depth of character is as important as the plot
Arts And Entertainment

Jan 09,2017

Creating a character that the reader can empathize with (even a villain) is what drives my writing. My protagonists are all flawed, just as we are in real life. In the course of my novels I first peel off the layers that made the character what he or she is and as the novel progresses there is growth in that character. By no means does my protagonist become perfect . . . not even close, but there is growth and the reader is taken along for a ride to grasp the changes.

 

Even though I am a male the protagonists in all of my 7 published novels are all female (many of my villains are, as well). In Blood Sacrifice Thea Hughes is damaged goods, at the outset, due to the bigotry and hostility she has faced as an adolescent and later from fellow police offices because she is a lesbian. There is her back story which allows readers a peek into her soul. What in her past has made her overly sensitive, an introvert, a half-glass empty woman? These questions are answered as the novel progresses.

 

But, Thea is forced to examine herself by those she meets in the course of the story. Her new partner Ariel she thought was hostile to her because of her sexual identity, but she finds she was wrong. Ariel is equally flawed as a bi-racial woman who refuses to identify herself as either black or white even when society demands she make a choice. While tracking down a serial killer the two find balance. Thea tries to get into the head of the killer. For Ariel, it’s a puzzle that has to be solved. They find that both approaches can work in their hunt. Both learn to understand and respect each other. A friendship develops and with that trust.

 

Thea also meets her “twin”. Ali is not related to Thea but they look virtually identical. Ali, though, has a personality the polar opposite of Thea’s. She’s spontaneous. She says whatever comes out of her mouth without first thinking. Unlike Thea she doesn’t over analyze her actions. She’s glib and an unrequited flirt.

 

Both Ariel and Ali have a profound impact on Thea. Over the course of the novel Thea becomes a bit more like Ali, while Ali becomes less of a bull in a china shop. Ariel gives up control and allows Thea to make decision for the two of them, something she had difficulty doing earlier in her life.

 

These characters all evolve over the course of the novel. You don’t get a one-page description of them at the beginning of the book with the next few hundred pages dealing solely with the plot. These characters show growth and often do the unexpected because of their interaction with other characters. The woman you met early on in the novel is far different when you get to the final page.

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