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Character Sketch - Danielle Black

As a writer I have to get to know my characters. I have to know what they look like, how they dress, their likes and dislikes, and what kind of childhood they had. It may sound easy to come up with a new character, and it is in a way because all you have to do is think of someone new. But to make a character that your readers can root for, someone who they believe is real, is so much harder. To create an entire person, from nothing, is quite a task. That's why I like to create character sketches, and today I'm introducing you to one of my characters Danielle Black.



What are character sketches?


To me character sketches are anything that helps you describe, or get to know your character. From a list of questions to putting your characters in scenarios that are completely out of their world - for example putting a couple from your romance novel on an alien planet, or putting a Detective in a fantasy world.



Character Sketch - Danielle Black | A policeman in a fantasy world? A romantic couple on an alien planet?



Meet Danielle Black


Danielle Black, a 39 year-old Detective Inspector, likes to veg out in front of the TV with a cold bourbon at the end of a rough day. She gets teary-eyed when she smells fresh baked bread and rubs her wedding ring when she's anxious. She once vowed she'd never have children, but now she's not so sure.



Now let's put Danielle in a waterpark...


She hopped across the paved path, her feet slapping against the concrete. She spied a puddle close by and jumped into it to cool her feet. The water was hot, but the next puddle was occupied by a young woman doing the same. Dan hopped from one foot to the other trying to cool her feet and as she waited for the next puddle to clear three excited children hurried past her, laughing and shrieking as they scurried to their next fun stop. The two shorter children held hands as they ran ahead and she grinned. Out of the corner of her eye she spied the bright white steps of the welcoming pool and rushed over to the cool water. She stepped down and planted her feet in the cold water, breathing a sigh of relief.

As parents and children alike passed her to jump into the cold water she closed her eyes and raised her face to the sky. The sun warmed her skin and she took a slow deep breath, breathing in the coconut scent of her sunscreen. 

Someone shoved her from behind. She lurched forward but her foot missed a step and she plunged into the cold water. The cold enveloped her and she broke out in goosebumps. As her arms and legs flailed about trying to find purchase she could still hear the muffled yells and laughter from surrounding children, filling the park with happiness. Fighting against the water she pushed her feet down and found the bottom of the pool. She stood up and coughed and spluttered as she emerged from the water. Her hair stuck to her face preventing her from taking a full breath so she pushed it with both hands and looked up at the steps.

She froze. Blinked. Again. The man in front of her offered his hand but she couldn't move. She saw his mouth move but couldn't hear the words. Tears welled in her eyes. Her heart ached. He looked so much like William it was uncanny. His sparkling blue eyes, his long pointed nose, even the little triangular shape where his moustache met his beard. She rubbed her face with her hands and looked again.

"Hey, are you okay?" he said, offering his hand once more. 

His gruff voice and American accent sounded strange, not like William at all. She reached out and took his hand and he pulled her from the water, helping her up the steps and to a nearby beach chair shaded by a blue and red striped umbrella. Sitting down she gripped the side of the chair, unsure what to say or do.

"Should I get someone?" he asked, kneeling in front of her. He looked worried, his brows pulled together and scanning the area, presumably looking for a life guard.

"No, no, I'm fine." She finally said, "I just need a minute."

He nodded and sat on the beach chair by her side.

"I don't know what happened. I think I tripped and bumped into you and the next thing I know you're under the water! Are you sure you're okay?" he said.
"Yes, really, I'm fine."
"Let me buy you a drink to say sorry, it's the least I could do. Look, there's a bar right there," he pointed, "let me get you something?" he said.

She looked in the direction he pointed and saw a brightly painted wooden shack not 20 feet away. A light blue sign hung above the window that read "Frosty Fred's" in big white letters and Dan watched as kids walked away from the shack grinning with huge ice-creams in their hands.

"Sure." she said.
"Great! Back soon." he said and hurried to the end of the growing line in front of Frosty Fred's.

She couldn't help but stare at him as he waited in line. While his face reminded her of William the rest of him was completely different. William had stood at 5' 10" but the American man was clearly much taller, closer to 6' 3". Instead of a paunch he was tanned and had a muscular chest, his legs were hidden by long deep blue swimming shorts but from what she could see they were muscular too. He looked over at her and smiled, she smiled back.

As he reached the window and ordered drinks she closed her eyes. She listened to the plinky-plonky winter-themed music coming from a hidden speaker somewhere nearby. She tried to drift away, to pretend just for a moment that she wasn't still hurting.

"Here you are." He said and handed her a small glass.

She opened her eyes, smiled and took the glass, raising it to her mouth. She smelled the bourbon before she tasted it and welcomed it's smooth flavour. The ice cubes bashed against her lip as she drank and then clinked against the glass as she withdrew it from her mouth. She sighed and looked at the American.

"How did you know?" she said.
"Know what?"
"The drink - how did you know bourbon is my favourite?"
"Oh!" he laughed, "I didn't. I mean... it's my favourite too so I got you that. Glad you like it though."

He took a drink from his own glass.

"I'm Matt by the way." he said, offering his hand.
"Dan." she said and shook his hand.
"Dan like Danni?" he asked.
"Um, no, it's Danielle actually. But no one calls me Danielle, it's just Dan."
"Dan it is then." he smiled.

That smile. She had to smile back when he smiled at her, it was infectious. While her heart hurt when she looked at him his smile eased the pain a little. It was soft, caring, like he was happy to be near her. Was he happy to be near her?

Dan had never believed in chance encounters that led to relationships. It was all a little too easy. But the thought of having a friend to talk to, someone she could confide in, made her feel a little better.

"So, Matt... What do you do?" she asked.

She sat and listened to his gruff voice and did her best to put her pain aside. Yes, a friend would be nice...


Character Sketch - Danielle Black | Waterparks are an unusual place for Detective Inspectors.



Summary


A waterpark isn't somewhere I would've ordinarily put Dan - she's a Detective Inspector and loves her job. But writing something like this allows me to investigate her feelings about certain situations and how she might deal with surprise or conflict. It also allows me to flex my writing muscles and maybe even push myself by writing about things I wouldn't normally.



You can expect to see more of these Character Sketches, some will feature characters from my current work-in-progress, and some will be new characters. Either way I hope to share some great content with you.

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