Readers love to know how authors created their characters. When I do a book presentation I always get character questions like: Did you base this character on a real person you know? How did you decide on a character’s name? How did you figure out your character’s personality traits? These questions arise because stories are less about what happens and more about who things happen to. Most characters face real problems that readers experience, so readers often identify with story people and want to know more about them. Lysi Weston and Grace Wright are the two protagonists in my Lysi Weston mystery series. Here are two examples of their character bios that I presented at my last Library book signing.
Weston was born and raised in San Francisco, California. Her parents were professors of classical literature at San Francisco State University and named her Lysistrada, Lysi for short. Lysistrada is the title of Aristophanes’ comic play written in 411 B.C. about a woman who gets tired of the Greek men of her city fighting in the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. She persuades the women to withhold all services from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace. She succeeds. Lysi’s last name, Weston, is from my maiden name West. Lysi fancies herself a sleuth because her uncle was a San Francisco district attorney and because she took classes in law enforcement at university. Lysi dreamed of being a homemaker supported by an adoring husband. She married right after college graduation and divorced her abusive husband after a few years. She put her life back together and became an independent, self-sufficient, career woman. This background information helps explain Lysi’s conservative nature.
Wright was born and raised in Harlem, New York, the daughter of a Puerto Rican Mother from El Barrio and an African-American Father. Grace’s real name is Maria Rosa because her father wanted to name her after Rosa Parks of Civil Rights fame and her mother wanted to name her after the Virgin Mary. Grace insisted on taking the name of both her grandmothers—Grace. Grace’s father, a reformed gang member, owns a bookstore. He still has a reputation for being tough and has continued to own the Harlem streets since he was sixteen. As a result, Grace had gang member friends who respected her because of her father. This is the source of Grace’s worldliness. Grace spent summers in Mississippi with her paternal grandmother and learned to cook from her Puerto Rican grandmother. University-educated, Grace speaks formal English but can express herself in Harlem slang and in a soft Southern drawl. This background information helps explain Grace’s comfort in an executive board room or on a Harlem street. I present this type of bio for each of my most interesting characters. This additional information helps my readers understand my story people and how they face their fictional world.
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