Recently when I spoke to a book club I was asked, Are your characters based on real people? Is Monk, of Thelonious Rising, a boy you knew? Someone you met in New Orleans when you were researching your novel?

As an avid reader myself, I understand the desire to believe that a favorite character is a real person. Sometimes I wish the character were in my life, someone I could see and talk to every day. When I see that desire in one of my readers I want to lie, to say, of course he is real, or at least based on one real person.

Most often that is not the case. At the very least the character is a composite. Yet writers draw from real life. After all, life is the great university of the imagination.

When I’m thinking about the next book, questions pop into my head. First, whose story is this, and what does my character want more than anything else in the world? Love, success, approval, escape? How does he handle loneliness, insecurity, boredom, failure?

In thinking through a character, ask yourself these questions. Imagine how someone else would answer, the stranger across the room, or someone you think you know well.

I would love to hear from you with your thoughts. You can email me at or “reply” on my blog page at