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Character: 20 things about a character that readers will never know


Character -
Character – twenty things

Barbara Poelle is a literary agent at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.


I found this  advice sometime ago and have adopted it to give depth to my character whether I am struggling or not. Having said that, I cannot remember the twenty character details but they are buried in my sub conscious, I hope. I can always check them if necessary. Only the main character or characters, protagonists and antagonists, get this treatment.

A character in one novel is called Imogen Cassels. In the novel she is 30 years old, and a private investigator in Thailand. Most unusual but as she says:

“I can follow the cheating Western husbands because they no longer see a white woman. I have a one hundred per cent success rate.”

20 Things the Reader will never know about Imogen Cassels

  1. She fell on a nail which embedded into her knee resulting in surgery.
  2. She shaved her head when she was a teenager.
  3. She saved a school friend from drowning.
  4. She had a pregnancy scare in her teens.
  5. She had a Spanish pen pal.
  6. She decided she was gay for a year.
  7. She failed her driving test five times.
  8. She spied on one of her teachers because she thought he was dealing drugs.
  9. She learned to juggle, ride a mono-cycle, and walk on stilts intending to join a circus.
  10. She set fire to a classroom during an experiment.
  11. She ran away from home and was found a week later in a friend’s attic.
  12. Her first pet was a rat.
  13. She took ballet lessons, piano lessons, and more but they bored her.
  14. She pretended to have a boyfriend when she was fifteen.
  15. She tried smoking but was sick.
  16. The first time she had sex was in the boys’ locker room at the swimming pool.
  17. She saw the ghost of a boy and his dog in an old house.
  18. After her grandmother died, she gained fifty pounds.
  19. She has one implanted tooth because of an abscess.
  20. She posted text books to her school, ten years after borrowing them.

I wonder how others view the character from this list. To me, Imogen is a risk taker, adventurous, with outstanding drive and determination, but she also has vulnerabilities which she hides. Her choice of profession and her success fit with her persona.

The novel runs to 30,000 words so far. While rereading it, I thought too much information was dumped into the narrative and that it would be better revealed through character interaction. Show don’t tell. Hence, Imogen was introduced.

I like her and I am looking forward to her role in the story. I think she will be a challenge for the male protagonist. Because of the circumstances of the case, they don’t trust each other. As they are both searching for the truth I am sure they will clash, holding back information, revealing only enough to keep the other happy.

Published inWriting

One Comment

  1. Some intriguing background. She certainly sounds feisty. Look forward to reading her.

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