Putting the Character in Character

Happy Valentines all. So excited today’s my day to blog because it gives me an opportunity to interrupt this session to tell you about the last day of my sale. I’m traditionally published and my publisher places my books on sale, not me.  So, before I get to my blog, allow me to a quick bit of promotion to tell you about this significant discount.

Now, back to The Stiletto Gang’s regularly scheduled blog  and a bit of background on Black Pearl;)

By Donnell
Ann Bell

One of the
hardest things for me to do as a writer is to create characters. Some authors
have told me, “Oh, my character came to me fully formed.” Others say, “Oh, I do
character interviews to find out what makes him/her/them tick.”

Me? I ask my
characters, “Who are you?” and most rudely shout back, “You’re the author, you
figure it out.”

Not helpful.
Makes me want to stuff them in a drawer until they can play nice.

Still, I can
have an amazing plot, but if the characters don’t come alive, then my book is
nothing more than words strewn on a page. No matter what genre you read, books
are all about emotion, and characters bring emotion to life.

What’s more,
without strong, relatable characters, readers might give a book a try, but they
will just as quickly put the book down.

So, because
I need characters in a book, and because my characters are stubborn and won’t
talk to me, I cheat.

Yes, you
heard it here first.

If my
protagonist is in law enforcement, I interview members of law enforcement. If 
my protagonist is an FBI agent, I interview FBI agents. If my killer is an
insane whack job…I interview mental health professionals and read books. (I
fully admit I don’t interview whack jobs). By using these techniques, I find my
muse comes to life and the characters cooperate.

In Black
, my November 2019 release, I came across a new problem. I wrote my
first female police officer. One would think, oh, that’s easy, you’re a woman. Au
, this character really dug in her heels. She had the nerve to
call me, her creator, a fraud.

What did I
do about it? I went to some fellow authors who in their past careers were law
enforcement: Kathy Bennett, Phyllis Middleton, and Robin Burcell. I interviewed
them and asked them about their experiences. These women were beyond helpful.

I took those
results to my female police officer character. But instead of saying, “Great
job,” she said, “You’re getting warmer. You need to know more. You need to get
inside my head.”

she’s not real and I couldn’t shoot her, I did a lot of groaning and pacing.
Then another idea came to me. I’m a graduate of citizens academies for my local
police and sheriff’s office, so I marched into the Gold Camp Police Station one
morning and asked the woman behind the glass partition if I could do a

“Of course,”
she replied and pulled out her clipboard. “Fill this out.”

I hesitated.
“Thank you. I will. However, is there any chance I could do a ride-along with a
female police officer? And is there any chance she could be a field training

The woman lifted an eyebrow. “Will there be anything else?”

I thought
about it. “No that about covers it.”

As events
turned out, there was a female field training officer in the Gold Camp Police
Station at that very moment. The receptionist paged her; she came out to the
front desk, introduced herself, said she was too busy to accommodate me just
then, but two weeks later we did a ride-along on a twelve-hour shift.

She was
amazing. Professional, smart, everything that Kathy, Phyllis and Robin exuded
in spades. I saw how she conducted herself with the public and listened to her
comments in private. Further, she helped me brainstorm my character, and one
remark, she made hit me with such force, I took her at her word. “Please don’t
make her a slut. We don’t get where we are by not being professional and

I went home
after that shift and did my character outline and that’s when my character told
me her name. “My name is Allison Shannon,” she said. “I come with plenty of
baggage, but I’ve risen above it.”

I’ll close
by saying, I’m intensely proud of Allison and she’s one of the best characters
I’ve ever created. But as you can see, I didn’t create her alone. She’s a mix
of some remarkable women I admire. She’s working in a man’s world. She’s
tough, she’s formidable, but vulnerable at the same time, and she’s waiting to
tell you her story.

Thank you
for being with me today.

~ Donnell

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell began her writing
career at the
Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine before
turning to fiction. An award-winning author, including a two-time Golden
Heart finalist, she is the author of
Black Pearl, book one of a series, Buried
Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting,
all of which have been Amazon digital bestsellers.
Black Pearl is her
latest release, readers can expect book two of the Cold Case series in 2022, and she’s back to work on book three of the series. Follow her on
Facebook and Twitter or





7 replies
  1. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    Great analysis of what is behind a character — from the interviewing, analyzing, and reality vs. fiction.

  2. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    Allison sounds amazing, worth all the effort to "gestate" and "birth" her. Happy Valentine's Day to you, Donnell.

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