Humanitarian aid Abby Howell and reporter Nick Sinclair find themselves in the middle of a human trafficking ring in Pakistan. When Abby realizes she may have witnessed a murder by a high-ranking official, she and Nick must break the story before she becomes its next casualty.
All writers approach character creation and development in the way that best suits them. When I sit down to write, my first task, after writing at least an outline of my ideas, is to populate my story with interesting and believable characters for it is those same characters who will drive my plot and bring it to vivid life. And that goal – the creation of the best characters to tell my story is at once, the most exciting, pleasurable aspect of writing a novel, and the most daunting. I know too well that a dull or poorly written character can take away from or even sink my story, and because of that, I take great care in every step of finding the right people to tell my story.
Once I have an idea for a story, I try to imagine the people involved. I often start with only the barest hint of a character, but once I’ve given my character a name, the story seems to flow for me. With my first novel – Lipstick in Afghanistan – my Afghan characters, especially Parween, came easily. Parween’s name and story swirled in my mind and on my keyboard with the ease of which every writer dreams. But that was not the case for my other protagonist, the American nurse. I just couldn’t get a grasp of who she was, and I tried a variety of names – Jill, Kate, Emma – but none of them worked, and her portion of the story stalled. I was stumped until one day I read the story of a French aid worker who’d been killed in Africa. She’d been caught in the explosive crossfire between warring tribes, and in a hate filled instant, her work, her life ended. That aid worker’s name was Elsa, and she filled my thoughts and my heart for days, and I knew that I wanted to honor her in some way, however small. It somehow seemed destined, and my character, Elsa Murphy, was born. Not surprisingly, once she had a name and I knew who she was, Elsa’s story sprang easily to life in the pages of Lipstick in Afghanistan.
But my characters are much more than their names, and in fact, their physical characteristics, which so many assume, are the first details I choose, are actually the last pieces of my characters’ puzzles. I am much more interested in who they are, in what drives them, and in turn in how they drive the story. Are they impatient and prickly or soft hearted and kind? Or even better – are they a bit of both? Whether they are tall or short, chubby or stick thin, red-headed or brunette, those are details I fill in as the story progresses, as I start to see my character in my mind’s eye.
And more than a name, every character carries a tiny bit of me for even if I do my best to infuse my characters with traits and personalities that are furthest from my own, there is still a piece of me buried in there – one character’s impatience, another’s dreaminess, and yet another’s appetite for risk.
In the course of my writing, my characters become as familiar to me as close friends, and sometimes I feel as they are just that. And that, after all, is my goal – to create characters that are as real to the reader as they are to me. I hope that everyone who reads my novels discovers new friends in the pages there, and I hope too they’ll keep reading and discovering new worlds and places and people in the pages of my books just as I have discovered in creating them.