The first thing I do when I come up with an idea for a novel is set up my Character Sketch Files. I do this even before I write a synopsis or any kind of plot outline. I need to know everything about my characters. Some of what I know never makes it into the book. And often, as I write I learn more about them and add that to the sketch.
My latest book, The Art of Love and Murder, required me to do a family tree research too. Well, I call it research. I had to make it all up of course. Lacy is researching her past and that research will spill over into book three so I had to go back many generations.
I'm not sure you'll find this interesting, but I thought I'd share what my character sketch pages looked like for my main female character, Lacy Dahl.
Character Name: LACY DAHL
Birth Date and Place: Flagstaff, AZ 1969
Character Role: HEROINE
Race: HALF AUSTRIAN, HALF AMERICAN INDIAN HOPI
Eye Color: LIME GREEN
Hair Color and Style: BLACK, THICK, HANGS BELOW HER SHOULDERS
Height/Weight/Build: 5’7”, 135, MEDIUM – CURVY - NICE
Skin Tone: DARKISH
Style of Dress: jeans, pricey shoes, gauzy or silk shirts, sparse jewelry but precious
Characteristics/Mannerisms: brushes her hair along her chin when thinking, likes real things like ceramic not paper, diamonds, leather
Personality Traits: until the story begins she’s been happy to live in the present, not an inquisitive person, but a happy person, settled. Self-assured, independent, responsible
Background: orphaned as a baby and foster parents eventually adopted her. Foster parents were unable to have children. When no blood relatives on either side could be found, they were allowed to adopt her. Her husband died three years earlier before beginning of book in a mountain climbing accident. His name was Conrad Dahl. He was a surgeon. She bought the coffee shop 6 months after his death. Her birth parents were Hartmut Luschin and Kaya Mockta born 1947. They were 27 and 28 when they died in an airplane crash that only she survived.
Internal Conflicts: husband and parents dead, she’s left to discover who she is for her sake as well as her two children – but does she want to know – she’s always been happy with what she knows of her adopted life –she will struggle with an attraction to the sheriff
External Conflicts: someone wants the artifact and sketches she possesses, Kitty is a rival in the romance story
Occupation/Education: college graduate, now owns a coffee shop in Scottsdale
Miscellaneous Notes: runs every morning before opening the café and then goes home to change before returning to the café. practices yoga twice a week at a studio. She has a son who is at chef school in Paris and a daughter who is getting divorced in Tucson and owns an art gallery.
Lacy’s car is Crimson Red with beige interior.
The BMW Z4Smooth and powerful engines, quick-folding hardtop, comfortable ride, big trunk (with the top up), excellent visibility for a roadster, sharp styling inside and out.
That's a glimpse into what goes into a book before I start the story.