Getting to Know Characters — Susan Page Davis

This week we’re featuring author Susan Page David as she explains about getting to know our characters. Read all the way through. Susan is offering a free book in a random drawing.

Getting to Know Characters Through Their Background and Behavior

Last time I guested here, I talked about our first impressions of characters—and real people—through their appearance and speech. But as we get to know people, we learn about their background and observe their behavior. It’s the same with fictional characters. Their past unfolds bit by bit, and we see them react to what happens around them. Soon we find ourselves rooting for them—or hoping they will take a fall.

If writers are careful, they don’t dump the character’s entire past before the reader at the outset. Instead, they reveal bits and pieces through the character’s words, actions, and thoughts.

In a novel, the character’s background should complement his present. That doesn’t mean he was ten years ago what he is today. What happened to him earlier in life helped shape him into the person you see now.

Background can include lots of personal details—marital status, family relationships, birth order, occupation, faith, talents, intelligence, ethnicity, education, view of self, and many more. The writer doesn’t tell the reader every single thing about the character. That would take many volumes. But writers reveal everything about that person that will be important to the story you are reading.

The background gleaned in the first few chapters might include a special skill or hobby that will help the character later in the book. She may be an expert marksman with a slingshot because of a childhood pastime. He might know how to repair a broken-down car or a cut telephone line. She might know of a plant in her flower garden that could put someone to sleep—or worse—if used carefully.

In today’s featured book, Heart of a Cowboy, a six-year-old is able to discern the outlaws’ plans in my novella “Hearts in Pursuit.” I won’t tell you how, but it’s because of Pablo’s background and a special skill his mother taught him.

In my novella “The Cowboy Poet” (The Cowboy’s Bride Collection), the reader sees a little dog named Wooly perform tricks early in the book to please his old master. Later in the story, Wooly plays a very important role because the hero recalls one of these tricks and gets the heroine to signal Wooly to perform.

In my novel Frasier Island, the hero, George, wears his wedding ring on a chain around his neck. His wife is dead, but the ring becomes very important in a life-or-death situation because of some knowledge George picked up midway through the book.

None of these events comes about by coincidence or by magic. The critical moment is foreshadowed in each case with an ordinary bit of knowledge the character learned under normal circumstances, and the reader knows about it all along. But that knowledge is often used in an unexpected way.


This week I’m giving away a copy of Heart of a Cowboy. The winner can choose a paperback or an e-book. (Paperback restricted to USA only).

Bio: Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty Christian novels and novellas. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest.

Find her at:


Twitter: @SusanPageDavis


Susan blog on the 23rd of each month at:


Buy Heart of a Cowboy in paperback or Kindle from Amazon:

The Kindle version is also free on Kindle Unlimited.



This week I’m giving away a copy of Heart of a Cowboy. The winner can choose a paperback or an e-book. (Paperback restricted to USA only).

Susan Page Davis cropped

Heart of a Cowboy cover


About historythrutheages

I write stories of His Story Through The Ages that offer tales of hope and redemption.

Posted on May 3, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Great to be here again, Donna!

  2. Hi Susan: I am always excited to host you!

  3. Excellent article! I love Susan’s books and the way she weaves in unexpected tidbits along the way. Don’t enter me to win, as I’m one of the authors. Loved all the stories in this one!

  4. I am intrigued. This sounds like a great read.

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