A pink and purple graphic features 5 book covers and a title reading Harlequin Author Spotlight

Character Essence: Why It Matters to the Story

Strong traits make characters unique, vivid and complex. They also motivate the character’s actions and behavior, working hand-in-hand with the plot. Think of Jack Dawson in Titanic, determined to be with Rose and unafraid of breaking class rules on the ship and in love. Or Peggy Olson in Mad Men, driven to break into advertising on Madison Avenue in the 1960s, and even with all her creative talent, naïve enough to believe they’ll let her do it.

With defining traits and goals built into your characters, readers will soon be cheering for them and turning the pages to find out if it works out for them. We asked Harlequin authors about the most important aspect of a main character in their new release and why it matters to the story. 

Hunted Hotshot Hero by Lisa Childs

“Hotshot hero Rory VanDam has a secret to keep, and his life depends on it.  If certain people discover he’s still alive, he won’t be for long. Brittney Townsend is the reporter hellbent on discovering Rory’s secret.  The secret is the most important aspect of Rory’s character and the story; it’s the conflict that keeps him from getting close to anyone, even his fellow hotshot firefighters.  It’s also the conflict between him and the heroine.”—Lisa Childs

Matzah Ball Blues by Jennifer Wilck

“The most important aspect of Caroline is her independence. Instead of leaving for college, she stayed home to care for her mom. Ten years later, she’s finally paid off all the medical bills, has a job she loves, and is ready to travel. So when her high-school sweetheart returns—with a baby in tow—the last thing she wants is to give up her dreams again for someone else. Her heart, however, has other plans.”

Father’s Redemption by Sabrina York

“Celeste Tuttle and Ben Sherrod have been at odds since high school. When fate brings them together to work on a key project for the town, and Celeste begins to suspect her assumptions about Ben may have been wrong, she has a choice. Stand her ground and keep him at a distance, or try to see him with new eyes…and possibly find the love of her life. But it’s a risk to take a chance on him. And oh so awkward to admit she was wrong.” —Sabrina York

Deadly Mountain Rescue by Tara Taylor Quinn

“Stacy Waltz draws her strength from the love of home and family. She’s an orphan, living alone on family property, and the memory of all the love from her upbringing ignites her heart, and her smile, every day. Same is true for the small town in which she grew up. She’s a decorated cop who, in spite of lucrative offers, stays in that small town to serve the community she loves.” —Tara Taylor Quinn

Undone in the Billionaire’s Castle by Louise Fuller

“Ivo doesn’t just live in a castle, he is imprisoned by high walls built to keep out a world that shut him out. His heart is a fortress. A one-night stand won’t change that. But for Ivo to break free of the past, and get his happy ever after, he needs someone to breach his walls. Who better to do that, than my stubborn, sexy heroine, Joan, who also happens to be a hurdler.” —Louise Fuller

Check out more Write for Harlequin resources on creating compelling characters: