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Want to write a bestseller? Reveal your protagonist’s psyche

The trick to publishing a best selling novel just might depend on how deeply you build your protagonist’s emotional intensity.

In an interview in The Irish Echo online, best-selling author Michael Connelly explained why his first two novel writing attempts didn’t work. While shadowing a homicide detective on his job as newspaper reporter in Florida, Connelly noticed the detective – intent on his investigation – would place the earpiece of his eyeglasses in his mouth as he examined the crime scene. Later, when the detective took off his glasses, Connelly noticed that the detective had bitten a groove into the earpiece.

That telling detail revealed the depth of the detective’s internal emotion and intensity for his job.

“I knew there was a lot of internal world there, a lot of internal things going on,” Connelly says in the article. “And in my first efforts at writing novels, that’s what I was missing – the internal world, the internal cost. If your job takes you to the dark corners of humanity, murder scenes, how do you keep any of that darkness from getting inside of you.”

Consider these questions as you create your protagonist:

Define the problem your protagonist is solving.

How deep does it go? What makes it so personal?

What back story would explain this character’s level of emotional intensity?

What’s at stake for your protagonist and what will happen if he or she doesn’t find resolution?

Connelly’s success as a journalist led to a job with the Los Angeles Times. In 1992 after three years on the crime beat, he published his first novel, The Black Echo, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel awarded by the Mystery Writers of America. More than 45 million copies of his novels have sold worldwide.

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