It isn't a question I know the answer to, but like art, I know what's good when I see it. Characters in novels by Jan Burke, Laura Lippman, and Lee Child never, ever throw us out of the story by doing something alien to their nature. Characters in lesser works often do, and it becomes an effort to believe that they are real people.

The key is knowing the character you create intimately before you ever put fingers to keyboard. A protagonist will be closer to you as an author than friend, spouse, or sister, because you are inside that person's head in a way that isn't possible in real life. If you haven't plumbed the depths of your character's mind, however, you may end up making him/her do things that the reader, who early on forms an impression based on what you've indicated, knows isn't within the character's options. Ironically, they recognize your character's limitations better than you do in those times.

Why would we as authors make our creations do what they wouldn't? To make the plot go the way we want it to, of course. But good authors know that characters take on a life of their own, and if you pay attention, they speak to you. They say, "I'm not comfortable doing that."

And you need to listen to them.

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