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Give your characters a humanizing trait to make them relatable

Best-selling author Patricia Cornwell was recently featured on Sunday Morning where she talked about her heroine, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, in her main book series. In the interview, Cornwell says she gives her readers a “huge does of forensic science and medicine” but, at the same time, the story is really about her protagonist Scarpetta, what she’s going through, and where she needs to get to.

One way Cornwell makes Scarpetta human and more relatable is to give her a simple, down-to-earth trait.

At some point, in every book, Scarpetta cooks—often her signature pizza. Cornwell says this is her character’s way of taking off her armor when she comes home—spending time in the kitchen and feeding people. This humanizes her and gives her something else to do besides solve crimes. This kind of down time is important in a novel—your protagonist can’t always be on hyper alert.

As you create your cast of characters, ask yourself what one thing you can give them that could become their signature trait, past-time, or hobby.

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