Getting to know Claire

I want two seemingly opposing characteristics from my protagonist, Claire:

  • I want her to be a likeable everywoman, who people will be able to relate to
  • I want her to be exceptional

How to combine these two characteristics?

The Bestseller Code suggests that a lead character needs to have a talent. e.g. Lisbeth in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a master hacker. Rachel in The Girl on the Train is a keen observer.

So, what talent can my protagonist have? Ideally I’d like it to be a talent that doesn’t interfere with her “everywoman” qualities. She can’t be a perfect mother (who is?), or overly organised or in control. She’s got to struggle with the same things that normal people struggle with – work-life balance, being a good parent, fitting all the chores in…

In this circumstance her talent could be around her work. When we meet her she’ll be on maternity leave and unable to go back to the same job, as she has moved far away for her husband’s job.

I want her work to be something a bit quirky or interesting. I came up with the following:

  • Fashion designer
  • Fiction editor
  • Magazine editor
  • Journalist
  • Clothes buyer for retailer
  • Layout specialist for children’s books
  • Fabric selector for curtain retailer
  • Heir hunter
  • In charge of rehousing tenants at the Council
  • Social Services
  • Helping children in care

Of these, I think journalist, heir hunter, social services or helping children in care would be the most useful, as the skills she has gained in these roles could be used further in the plot.

It’s important she has a specific skill within these roles – one that makes her good at her job and the one people turn to for that skill, and also one that she can use when she comes up against the antagonist in the course of the novel:

In terms of specific skills, perhaps it could be:

  • locating missing people (journalist, heir hunter and potentially social services)
  • spotting when children are being abused (social services, helping children in care)
  • a confidant – encouraging people to confide in her (journalist, social services, helping children in care)

I think the most likely one I’ll use is the first skill (locating missing people) possibly via the third skill (getting people to confide in her). This leaves her employee options as a journalist (a very popular job in novels) or a worker in social services.