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  • Vince Santoro

Characters - The Heartbeat Of Every Story

"Elementary, my dear Watson." We’ve heard this well-known phrase before, attributed to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Even though Sherlock never said this in any of Doyle’s stories (the phrase was popularized in the movies), the sleuth Sherlock Holmes has become one of the most memorable characters.

“I’ll think about it later.” A phrase by another well-known character Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind. Unlike Sherlock, Scarlet said these words which reflected one of her character traits, her tendency to put off things that bothered her.

What makes characters in a story memorable? Good written characters must be believable, unique, and three-dimensional. To some, Sherlock Holmes is likable because he’s intelligent and let’s nothing get in the way from achieving his goal. Scarlett O’Hara may not be as likeable because she’s selfish, greedy, ruthless, and insensitive who keeps men wrapped around her fingers. Yet both Sherlock and Scarlett are well written, memorable characters.


They are three-dimensional characters that show real depth defined by their backstory or conflict. After all, that is what all stories are about – character and conflict. By conflict I don’t necessarily mean combat or fighting. It’s the character’s inner conflict that connects readers to the story.


In my book, The Final Crossing, I attempted to draw on real-life emotions when characters faced decisions. This would reveal their inner conflict and give the reader greater insight about the character. Here’s what a reviewer from Writer’s Digest wrote.


Vince Santoro had written a book that is hard to put down. He writes with depth and deep sense of belonging for his character Nenshi as he travels across the middle east, following his plan to return home. The characters are complex and believable. The pacing and suspense were done very well. Making the book a thoroughly enjoyable read. When I first read that Hordekef had put the papers in his chest, I thought he had put them there until he could take them to the courthouse. His intentional act of putting the papers in his chest shocked and hurt me. That is how invested the reader becomes reading this novel. It’s an example of how Santoro’s characters are real with human flaws like the rest of us.

There’s a direct connection between character and storyline. Barbara Kyle, in her book Page Turner wrote, “Plot cannot exist without characters. Characters create plot.” She goes on to say characters “are the lifeblood of your story. People are what readers come to look for, and why they stay. Long after a book’s plot intricacies and carefully sculpted sentences have become a blur in the reader’s memory, what lingers is the impact of the characters. Vibrant, unique characters live on for years, even – like Ebenezer Scrooge – for centuries.”

Creating memorable characters is more than just diving into their past and exposing their inner conflict. This is where “character arc” comes in; a process that transforms the protagonist throughout the story until, in the end, he or she sees the world and himself or herself in a new or changed persona.

And now, introducing, the protagonists in my work-in-progress novel Letters of Redemption.

With its historical backdrop set in Italy and North Africa during World War II, Letters of Redemption is a compelling story of love, guilt, and the search for reconciliation.

The story follows the journey of Antonio, a man deeply affected by the hardships of war and burdened by the weight of trying to take over an abandoned piece of land to secure his family’s future.

When conscripted and deployed to the front lines in North Africa, his only means to make sure his plans are realized are through letters to his brother. But those aren’t the only letters that complicates his life. He discovers that Roberto, a fellow soldier, never learned how to write. Driven by his desire to help, Antonio selflessly agrees to write letters, on Roberto's behalf, to Maria whom Roberto had just met before he was sent off to war. Little did Antonio know that this act of kindness would lead to a life-altering chain of events, leading to a web of dishonesty and a profound yearning for redemption.

As the war persists and Roberto tragically loses his life in battle, the letters continue, and Antonio finds himself caught in a web of secrets and an unexpected love for Maria. When the war finally comes to an end, Antonio is left with a profound sense of urgency to find Maria, beg for her forgiveness, and declare his love for her. Maria, entangled in her own emotions and torn between the man she thought she knew through the letters and the truth she longs to uncover, must make a heart-wrenching decision that will shape the course of their lives.

We know the backstory; we know the inner conflicts. As I dive deeper into their conflicts through the ravages of a war-torn country and the intricacies of a relationship tethered by ink-stained pages of letters, readers will be immersed in a tale that lingers.

Just as Barbara Kyle said, characters are the lifeblood of a story, and in my new story, Antonio and Maria will live on, vivid and enduring. These are the vibrant and flawed characters at the heartbeat of my soon-to-be unforgettable novel. Stay tuned for more from my journey as I continue to write Letters of Redemption. Thank you for reading. Drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!



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