Rachelle Dekker | Five Character Types Every Suspense Novel Needs
July 16, 2018
Characters make or break a story, no matter the genre or theme. Readers have to
be able to take the journey with each character that is written into the pages.
They need to be able to place themselves in the characters’ shoes so they can
experience the story as if it were a part of their own. When you accomplish
this, you create a reading experience that is unforgettable.
When creating a suspenseful setting and mysterious plotline, the characters have
to be as dynamic and dimensional as possible. And not just your lead, but also
the other major character roles that I believe every good suspense novel needs.
First—The Protagonist: This one is obvious. Your hero,
or lead, has to be relatable and honest. This is their story mainly, so all the
elements of the story are in place to pull them forward to the end discovery.
People need to like them, of course, but they also need to have weaknesses and
struggles. They need to make mistakes, take the wrong path at times; they need
to be afraid, and then filled with strength when the time comes. They need to
reflect us so that the reader can relate to the main character without having to
become totally different.
Second—The Antagonist: The villain is easily the most
important character in a suspense novel. They also have to be dimensional—real
and authentic. Create an antagonist we believe, who isn’t just insane with evil
pursuit but who makes sense, whom we pity and understand. I always strive to
make my villains three things: smart, determined, and relatable. Give them edges
and curves. They are people (in most cases), even if they’re serial killers, so
make them human.
Third—The Sidekick: The best friend, or oftentimes a love
interest. This person stands beside your protagonist at every turn. And usually
they become the most loveable character in a novel. Think your Sam to your
Frodo, or your Han to your Luke. Now that doesn’t always mean following
blindly—they want only what’s best for your lead, which means they’ll ask
questions, they’ll push back if they think it’s best. But in the end they will
show up, guns blazing if needed, and have your hero’s back.
Fourth—The Limiting Voice: This is my favorite character to
write! They are often connected to your lead but act as the person who creates
barriers so the hero struggles to discover final redemption. It isn’t out of
spite like a villain, but their actions often come across as villainous because
they are standing in the way of the hero accomplishing his or her task. I find
this works really well as an authoritative role (parent or guardian) whom the
hero wants to please but usually has to overcome in the end.
Fifth—The Sage: This is your leading voice who guides the
hero to the end. Your Yoda. I think this is a great place to implement some
humor and really beautiful teaching through the character. The Sage is going to
be the most consistent, unwavering voice of truth from beginning to end.
Nail these five characters and you are sure to have a novel that pulls any
reader in and has them flipping each page until the very end!
Alicen McCaffrey finally has the life her mother always dreamed for her:
beautiful home in Santa Monica, successful husband, adorable daughter. Then
tragedy blows her carefully assembled façade to pieces. Worse yet— Alicen feels
solely responsible. At rock bottom, she decides to accompany a childhood friend
back to Red Lodge, Montana, where they spent summers together as kids.
The peaceful mountain landscape, accented with lush forests and small-town
charm, brings back happy memories of time spent with her beloved, eccentric
Grandma Josephine. Alicen begins to hope that perhaps things could be
different here. Perhaps the oppressive guilt will lift—if only for a moment.
But when Alicen starts hearing voices and seeing mysterious figures near the
river in the woods, she begins to fear she’s completely lost her sanity, as
it’s rumored her grandmother did. Or might there be more to Red Lodge than
meets the eye? Could the voices and visions be real—and her only means of
finding the healing she so desperately needs? Or will they prove to be her
The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker,
Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through
storytelling. She won a Christy Award for her critically acclaimed debut novel,
The Choosing, which was followed by two more books in the Seer series:
The Calling and The Returning. Rachelle graduated with a
degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate
recruiting before making the transition to write full-time. She lives in
Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat, Blair. Visit her online