Sunday, October 31, 2010

Designing characters for your plot

Spoilers below

In Dean Koontz's bestseller Intensity, a twenty-six-year-old woman stows away in a serial killer's motor home with two dead bodies (one her best friend) in order to rescue a young woman she believes he is holding captive in a cellar.

How is this believable? How does Dean Koontz possibly make this work? He does it by creating the one character in the entire world who would actually do that. 

Chyna Shepherd, the protagonist, has a childhood history of witnessing horrors, murder, and sexual deviance. She has a background is psychology, so - to some degree - she understands and, at times, analyzes the killer. She fears him, but only in terms of self-preservation. He does not terrify her. In many ways, he's not all that different than the men her mother dated.

She also grew up in communes and amongst militias, so she knows how to handle and fire a gun.

She also sees herself as a young woman who refused to be a victim. Even though no one ever came to rescue her, she has the opportunity to rescue someone just like her (she feels a kinship with the girl - empathy for her situation). She's not about to let the girl die. She's the only person in the world who would go to such lengths.

Once she finds a gun and arms herself, there's little to stop her from taking justice into her own hands.

Dean Koontz created Chyna Shepherd for one specific purpose: To fulfill the plot of his bestselling novel, Intensity.

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