We all have a hole in our lives. You do. I do. It’s the demon you wrestle with. When you win, you feel pretty good about yourself. When it wins, you feel pretty low. You don’t turn in that term paper because why even bother? You “forget” to set the alarm. You don’t speak up, even though you know the answer.
The first question I ask myself when I create a character is; “What does this person want?” It might be as simple as, “She wants to get the guy.” Or, “She wants to find the killer.” That’s the external conflict.
The second thing I ask is, “What is the hole in her life?” It might be “She was almost killed in the last book.” Or it could be something like, “Her sister is a beauty, and she is not.” I can’t write the book until I know where the pain is. That’s the internal conflict.
The same is true in real life. The private hurt we try to hide determines many of our choices. If you think you’re unloved, you may risk everything to find love. Or you may become so distrustful and bitter that no one can love you. Thus, you’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When I began GHOST ISLAND, I knew I wanted Livia, my protagonist, to find the perfect guy. Yet the only way she can see him is in her dreams. Is he real, or is he a spirit? More important, why would Livia risk everything to keep meeting him? In other words, what is the hole in her life? Lack of love? Perhaps.
I found my answer in the newspaper. The article reported the trial of a man who was convicted of murdering his wife. Although the wife’s body hadn’t been found, all evidence pointed to the husband. His son testified against him; his daughter believed he was innocent. That was it. I felt chills.
Livia’s father is in prison for murdering her mother, whose body has not been found. Livia has been living in a foster home, and then her teacher offers her the opportunity to take part in a Seminar at Sea. Then the storm hits, and she finds Aaron, the perfect guy. There’s just one little problem—that dream thing. So why does Livia risk everything to be with him? Because of the hole in her life. It’s that simple and that complicated. The same as real life.
A writing mentor and conference speaker, Bonnie Hearn Hill is the author of six thrillers from MIRA Books and the Star Crossed young adult astrology series. GHOST ISLAND is her twelfth novel. She can be reached at www.bonniehhill.com or http://www.facebook.com/bonnie.h.hill#!/StarCrossedseries