Creating Characters: Justin Quinn

I know a few things about Justin Quinn from Book 1 of the Pierce Family Saga (coming out on October 20). He was thirty-nine years old in 1855, so when Book 2 begins, he will be forty-three. He has a two-inch scar on the left side of his face as the result of an argument over a card game. He is Irish, six feet tall, and has red hair and green eyes. He is Cordelia’s biological father, and he deserted her mother, Minerva, before the woman knew she was pregnant. He was a fur trapper and trader when he met Minerva but has likely changed professions since the decline of the fur trade.

How are you feeling about Justin so far? Interested or not so much? Is he a hero or a villain? Hard to tell. We know some physical details and a few actions but there isn’t much in what I’ve told you to capture emotions or imagination.

How about this? Near the end of Book 1, Cordelia asks Aunt Hannah if her father knew about her. The answer: He could have figured it out if he’d wanted to. So now, we really have to dig in to Justin’s character. Did he want to know? Why or why not? Did he figure it out when Cordelia was a baby? Did he never figure it out but was told years later when he met someone? Does he not know until Cordelia is on his doorstep–if he has a doorstep? How does he react when his seventeen-year-old daughter finds him? But wait? Does he find her instead? Which course of action will produce the best story? There are so many decisions to make, and many of them  will come out of what happened in Justin’s own childhood since those experiences will have shaped his morality and thoughts about what it means to be a father.

Currently, I am considering having Justin’s father be a military person, perhaps stationed at some fort on the frontier, at least near the time when he would have left home at the age of seventeen or eighteen. I am currently reading Children of the Western Plains: The Nineteenth-Century Experience by Marilyn Irvin Holt in an effort to learn more about how children were treated at the time, information that will allow me to develop childhoods for all my major characters.

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