Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Character Profile: B. J. Vinson

I 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.

I 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:




CHARACTER’S NAME:      Burleigh J. Vinson

ALIAS/NICKNAMES:         BJ and Vince

DOB/POB/AGE:                    September 12, 1972   (33, almost 34 at the time of Zozobra)


RACE:                                    Caucasian

ETHNIC GROUP:                 Anglo (English)

HEIGHT:                                6”

WEIGHT:                               170 lbs

COMPLEXION/SKIN TYPE:  Sandlewood – light brown

BLEMISHES:                        A lentigo, a brown spot on his right cheek no larger than a mole

EYE TYPE & SHAPE:          Deep-set

EYE COLOR:                        Apple green or light green

NOSE:                                    English –narrow

HAIR COLOR/STYLE:        Mocha – Used to wear it in a Marine razor cut, now touches collar

FACIAL HAIR:                     None

HEAD SHAPE:                      Oval

MOUTH:                                Broad with full lips

CHIN:                                     Firm chin, almost stubborn, with a cleft

CHEEKS:                               Hollow, but not gaunt

TEETH:                                   Pearly, the front uppers just miss being bucked

FACIAL TYPE:                     Aristocratic, which he considers funny as his people came from
                                                shepherds and barkeeps.  Chiseled features.

BODY TYPE:                        Lean, but athletic from years in the military and the police gym

NECK:                                    Obvious Adam’s apple

SHOULDERS:                       Square, still retains military bearing

HANDS & ARMS:                Corded arms and surprisingly long, sensitive hands

CHEST:                                  Defined pecs, sprinkling of light hair between nipples

BELLY:                                  Flat, first hint of love handles at his sides

LEGS & HIPS:                       Leggy, runner’s muscles

FEET:                                      Like his hands, are long

VOICE:                                  Throaty baritone that fluctuates with mood and conditions

DISTINGUISHING PHYSICAL FEATURES:  Bullet scar on inner right thigh, lentigo on right cheek, cleft chin

PHYSICAL CONDITION (Fit, Unfit, other):  Fit

PHYSICAL IMPERFECTIONS (Would like to change most):  He would prefer a heavier frame

CHARACTERISTIC GESTURES/ TYPICAL BODY LANGUAGE:  Often emphasizes his words with a shrug. Leans forward when intense. Muscles sometimes bunch when he’s under stress


RELIGION:  Presbyterian


            DOB:  9/12/72

            POB:  Albuquerque, NM

            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 Department

            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 APD

            6/21/05 – Del Moves out

            9/15/05 – starts B. J. Vinson, Confidential Investigations

FAMILY BACKGROUND/LINEAGE (Family Tree, description & ages of immediate family):  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

YEARS OF SCHOOLING:  See personal background. Good grades, a 3.8 grade point average.
Special Occupational Training: Marine Corps Provost Marshall’s training, APD police academy

SKILLS, ABILITIES, & TALENTS:  Reads people well. Is a careful observer.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE:  Good investigative skills. Well versed in local history. Decent marksman. Did light boxing in school. Good swimmer.

OCCUPATION:  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.

PAST OCCUPATIONS:  See Personal Background. As a child and youth, had paper routes, took tickets in local theater, projectionist in theater

MILITARY EXPERIENCE:  Four years in USMC, Provost Marshall’s Office. Mustered out as a First Lieutenant. Saw no combat. Spent entire time in Southern California

HOME:  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.

NEIGHBORHOOD:  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.


PERSONALITY TRAITS (Select one or more):  Extrovert, Intelligent, Type A

SHORT-TERM GOALS:  Works to make a success of his business. Although he doesn’t need the money, he wants to feel productive

LONG-TERM GOALS:  Searching for a long-term relationship with a life partner.

SHORT TERM NEEDS:  Needs to find a candidate for such a relationship.

LONG TERM NEEDS:  Has to do water therapy on a fairly regular basis to avoid limping from the gunshot wound.

QUIRKS:  Loyal to a fault. Usually takes him a long time to develop friendships; also takes a long time for him to let them go. Stubborn.

IQ:  129

TEMPERMENT:  Calm, pleasant, but not overly social.

METHOD OF 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 history.

ADMIRABLE TRAITS:  Loyalty. A good work ethic. Fits into almost any social strata, from working the trenches to operating in the boardroom.

NEGATIVE TRAITS:  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.

BAD HABITS/VICES:  He smoked, but gave it up in 2003

MOST 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.

EVER BEEN ARRESTED?  (If so, for what/ results?):  No

IMPORTANT POLITICAL OR SOCIAL ISSUES:  Tacitly supports gay rights, but does not actively advocate them

OPINION ON ABORTION:  Supports a woman’s right to choose

OPINION ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:  As a history buff, he’s careful about the environment. Believes in global warming, for example.

OPINION ON HOMOSEXUALITY:  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.

OPINION ON MILITARY:  Pro – volunteered for the Marine Corps despite his homosexuality in order to prove a point to himself. Found it a positive experience.

OPINION ON CRIME AND GUN CONTROL:  As an ex-police officer, he’s anti crime, pro-gun control, especially on the matter of assault weapons

POLITICAL PARTY:  He’s an independent, but tends to be socially liberal

INCOME:  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.

SENSE OF HUMOR:  Wry. Doesn’t object to off-color humor, but doesn’t like it dirty.

FEARS:  The gunshot wound he suffered still haunts him.

HOBBIES AND OUTSIDE INTERESTS: history. He likes to take road trips around the state.

SPORTS:  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.

FAVORITE PASTIME:  Relaxing with friends and taking short trips to historical and natural sites of interest around the state. Occasional rounds of golf, swimming.

ATTITUDE 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     in a social situation while working, he has one drink and then switches to a non-alcoholic drink

FAVORITE MEAL:  Green chili chicken stew

CLOTHNG STYLES/FAVORITE OUTFIT:  Prefers casual clothing—slacks & pullover shirts. Not a natty dresser, but always presents a good image.

SPEAKING STYLE:  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.

PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE:  Live and let live

TYPE AND NUMBER OF CLOSE FRIENDS:  A lot of friendly relationships, but few close friends who tend to be professional or friends from his past

BEST FRIEND:  Detective Gene Enriquez, his old APD partner

OTHER FRIENDS:  Hazel Harris, his secretary and surrogate mother, Charlie Weeks, a retired cop who helps out in the business. A few old school friends.

CAR/COLOR:  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.

DRIVE FAST OR SLOW/OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS:  Pushes highway speed limits by a couple of MPH, but generally obeys all other traffic laws.

CHARACTER 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.


So, dear readers, I hope I kept him true to himself? If you find otherwise, please let me know.

Next week: I haven’t the foggiest.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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