have had some questions recently from aspiring authors and readers about how
deeply I go into the character of the individuals who populate my novels. In my
opinion,I should know the protagonist of the work as well as I know my siblings. When a major player takes action or thinks on the pages
of a manuscript, those actions and reactions must be consistent with the
character of that individual.
Almost everyone who’s done serious writing sooner or later will
say, “I couldn’t get So-And-So to do that." I like hearing such a response
because it means the writer has taken the time and trouble to create a multidimensional
individual for the novel. That is something I strive to do, and in aid
of that (along with the sharp eye of a good critiquer), I go to the trouble of creating a pretty deep
character profile of my protagonist and usually of the principal antagonist, as
well. In a continuing series such as THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, THE BISTI BUSINESS, and
upcoming THE CITY OF ROCKS (Martin Brown Publishers), I also do profiles on
the recurring characters in the series, although these secondary
characters do not receive such extensive treatment.
thought it might be interesting to show the profile of the lead character
in the above-mentioned series, a confidential investigator named Burleigh J. (do you blame him for using his initials?) Vinson.
Warning: As with most things, events and personalities evolve a bit over time,
so any changes penciled in during the writing of the three books do not appear below. You’ll
also see detailed descriptions of such things as BJ’s home, office,
and automobile so I can be consistent about such details. Let’s take a look:
THE B. J.
(33, almost 34 at the time of
Sandlewood – light brown
lentigo, a brown spot on his right cheek no larger than a mole
green or light green
Mocha – Used to wear it in a Marine razor cut, now touches
with full lips
chin, almost stubborn, with a cleft
but not gaunt
the front uppers just miss being bucked
which he considers funny as his people came from
shepherds and barkeeps.
but athletic from years in the military and the police gym
still retains military bearing
Corded arms and surprisingly long, sensitive hands
pecs, sprinkling of light hair between nipples
first hint of love handles at his sides
Leggy, runner’s muscles
his hands, are long
baritone that fluctuates with mood and conditions
Bullet scar on inner
right thigh, lentigo on right cheek, cleft chin
CONDITION (Fit, Unfit, other):
IMPERFECTIONS (Would like to change most):
He would prefer a heavier frame
GESTURES/ TYPICAL BODY LANGUAGE:
emphasizes his words with a shrug. Leans forward when intense. Muscles sometimes
bunch when he’s under stress
1978 – 1990 – grade, Jr. High, and
High School in Albuquerque
1990 – 1992 – Albuquerque
Technical-Vocational Institute (AA Lib Arts)
1992-1996 USMC – Military Police
1996-2005 Albuquerque Police
2000 – Completes BA in History at
UNM by attending classes at night school
June 2001 – makes detective at APD
4/12/02 – Meets Del Dahlman
1/31/03 – Both parents die in
automobile crash on I-40 in Albuquerque
3/15/03 – Dahlman moves in with him
5/10/04 – Shot in the right thigh as
he tries to apprehend a suspected murderer
5/10/04 – 3/20/05 – Hospital and on
recuperative leave for his wound
3/20/05 – Medical retirement from
9/15/05 – starts B. J. Vinson,
BACKGROUND/LINEAGE (Family Tree, description & ages of immediate
Robert and Frances Burleigh
Vinson, both 65, are retired Albuquerque Public School teachers. Conservative
in nature, Robert nonetheless makes a loan to a struggling new Albuquerque
business that goes on to become Microsoft. They leave an estate worth
$12,000,000 after inheritance taxes when they die in Jan 03
There was an older brother who died as a child. The Vinsons
had no other children
See personal background. Good
grades, a 3.8 grade point average.
Occupational Training: Marine Corps Provost Marshall’s training, APD police
ABILITIES, & TALENTS:
well. Is a careful observer.
Good investigative skills.
Well versed in local history. Decent marksman. Did light boxing in school. Good
Licensed confidential investigator operating
from a suite of offices on the third floor of a historic five-story white
concrete block building with an open atrium that goes all the way to the roof.
The building is located on the SE corner of 5th
and Copper NW across
the street from the main Albuquerque library.
See Personal Background. As
a child and youth, had paper routes, took tickets in local theater,
projectionist in theater
Four years in USMC, Provost
Marshall’s Office. Mustered out as a First Lieutenant. Saw no combat. Spent
entire time in Southern California
Inherited Residence from parents at 5228 Post
Oak Drive NW, Albuquerque, a ‘50’s contemporary, cross-gabled home with a stone
foundation and red brick walls with tall windows and white trim. Symmetrical,
fronted by a wide, low-ceilinged porch enclosed by a stone balustrade topped by
a wooden railing high enough to prop one’s feet on it while sitting on a porch
rocker. Square, tapered pedestals set into the stone balustrade support a heavy
roof at the corners and on each side of the concrete front steps. Pale Shrub
roses and English Legends line the front of the house while Heirloom roses bank
the driveway up the left side of the house all the way to the detached garage.
The home has a basement with small casement windows.
An older neighborhood settled in the ‘50s by
middle class working people. It is now somewhat of a geriatric neighborhood. BJ
is by far the youngest resident on his street.
TRAITS (Select one or more):
Works to make a success of his
business. Although he doesn’t need the money, he wants to feel productive
Searching for a long-term
relationship with a life partner.
Needs to find a candidate
for such a relationship.
Has to do water therapy on a
fairly regular basis to avoid limping from the gunshot wound.
Loyal to a fault. Usually takes him a long
time to develop friendships; also takes a long time for him to let them go.
Calm, pleasant, but not overly social.
HANDLING ANGER OR RAGE (Throwing things, repress, etc.):
Internalizes and analyzes. Dissipates anger
with physical activity such as swimming or indulging in his passion for
Loyalty. A good work ethic. Fits
into almost any social strata, from working the trenches to operating in the
Sometimes allows his “gut” to
override his other senses. He shies away from danger because of the shooting,
but plucks up enough courage to go through with the job in spite of it.
He smoked, but gave it up
PAINFUL THINGS IN CHARACTER’S LIFE:
Dealing with his homosexuality in his younger years, but he’s come to
terms with it now. Split with what he thought was his life partner. Dealing with a gunshot wound and its aftermath.
(If so, for what/
POLITICAL OR SOCIAL ISSUES:
supports gay rights, but does not actively advocate them
Supports a woman’s right to
ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:
As a history
buff, he’s careful about the environment. Believes in global warming, for
He is homosexual. He
fought it in his teens, but has come to grips with his orientation and is
comfortable with it. He is not in the closet, but does not advertise the fact
he is gay unless there is a valid reason to do so. He is masculine in his deportment,
so casual acquaintances often do not know he’s gay. Monogamous. Prefers
masculine partners. Turned off by flamboyant behavior. He doesn’t consciously seek
out the company of other gays, but doesn’t avoid them, either. He does not like
gay bars; in fact, he doesn’t particularly like bars in general.
Pro – volunteered for the
Marine Corps despite his homosexuality in order to prove a point to himself.
Found it a positive experience.
ON CRIME AND GUN CONTROL:
As an ex-police
officer, he’s anti crime, pro-gun control, especially on the matter of assault
He’s an independent, but tends to
be socially liberal
The investigations business earns him a
decent living, but he derives a satisfactory income from his family trust. He
has a personal income of over $120,000 per year. Trust income is larger.
Wry. Doesn’t object to off-color
humor, but doesn’t like it dirty.
The gunshot wound he suffered still haunts
AND OUTSIDE INTERESTS: history. He likes to take road trips around the state.
He played football in high school and follows
the sport casually, enough so he can discuss games in a bar situation. Swims
and golfs. Shoots in high 80’s.
Relaxing with friends and
taking short trips to historical and natural sites of interest around the
state. Occasional rounds of golf, swimming.
ON ALCOHOL (Drinks, How often, favorite drink):
Limits himself to 2 alcoholic drinks at any one time. He strictly avoids
drinking while on the job. If he’s caught
a social situation while working, he has one drink and then switches to a non-alcoholic
Green chili chicken stew
clothing—slacks & pullover shirts. Not a natty dresser, but always presents
a good image.
Generally soft-spoken, speaks
casually, but doesn’t rely on the vernacular too heavily.
Tends to drop the word I at the beginning of
a sentence. “Wouldn’t want to do that.” Rather than, “I wouldn’t want to do
that.” Speaks limited Spanish, and often uses Spanish nouns for certain things.
Live and let live
NUMBER OF CLOSE FRIENDS:
A lot of
friendly relationships, but few close friends who tend to be professional or
friends from his past
Detective Gene Enriquez, his old
Hazel Harris, his secretary and
surrogate mother, Charlie Weeks, a retired cop who helps out in the business. A
few old school friends.
A 2003, four-door Chevrolet Impala, white
w/tinted windows. In first novel replaced by a 2007, white 4-dr Impala SS w/303
h/p, 5.3-liter V8 engine with Active Fuel Management technology that regulates
between 8-cylinder and 4 cylinder operation.
FAST OR SLOW/OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS:
highway speed limits by a couple of MPH, but generally obeys all other traffic
GROWTH BY END OF STORY, CHARACTER CHANGES, LESSONS LEARNED:
Grows enough to let go of a failed
relationship to the point he can do business with the man who wronged him. This
frees him to begin a new relationship.
dear readers, I hope I kept him true to himself? If you find otherwise, please
let me know.
Next week: I haven’t the
New posts are published at 6:00
a.m. each Thursday.