Who Are Your Characters?

What your characters do is central to the story. The plot revolves around them and their emotions, their insights, their successes and failures. So their occupations are important. But how you feel about their occupations may be even more important.

When I started to write Bella Toscana, Toscana had a store where she sold Italian things, as well as her brownies. And Flynn made mosaic clocks. He was also married with a daughter. I thought I was off to a good start but after a few chapters the plot fell apart. So, like any good writer, I put it aside.

After several months I picked it up again, and this time Toscana was a wedding photographer (suggested by a good friend). I had some fun with that, imagining my heroine taking photos of people and architecture and landscapes and food. But again, the plot didn’t gel and I had to put it aside.

A year went by and I returned to my original premise of brownies, but this time I called in my alter ego and used my ex-brownie business Dolcielo. Toscana’s store sold Italian sweets. And Flynn was a history professor, an American living in Rome and teaching at the John Felice Rome Center. 

I finally realized I needed to choose something I love. Something that reflects my passion. The Sacred Flame centered around the Vestal Virgins, a group of people I knew nothing about. But that was sparked by my astrologer (I love astrology) and my interest in ancient civilizations. The more I read about the Vestals, the more intrigued I got. And the research on ancient Rome and the battle of Cannae and their politics and culture was all fascinating.

It doesn’t matter what your character does. He could be a firefighter. She could be a carpenter. Or he could be a movie star and she could be an heiress. The question is, how much do you enjoy writing about that? Does it tickle your fancy? Does it keep you up at night with hundreds of questions? Are you excited about finding out the next piece? If the answer is yes, you have yourself a winner. If the answer is no, try something else.