As an avid reader, I’ve discovered that successful authors create compelling characters and insert them into a series of works. As the characters become familiar, I discover them in a number of different situations, some more believable than others, but all engaging.

One of my favorite authors is Janet Evanovich, who writes the Stephanie Plum series, among others. Evanovich makes me laugh with each new escapade, which mostly occur in my home state of New Jersey. I read her books because they offer an escape from the world’s realities and because they show me how compelling characters bring a story to life.

Stephanie is a bond enforcement agent in her thirties, who is afraid of guns, often gets tasered by her own equipment, and definitely has demolition down to a fine art. She survives on junk food and desserts, yet still maintains her slim figure. Evanovich surrounds Stephanie with two love interests, one an overly romantic cop and the other a private security agent; long-suffering Hungarian-Italian parents; a gun-toting granny who loves to attend mortuary viewings; and a sidekick named Lula, who used to be a lady of the night.

These characters have appeared in twenty-three Stephanie Plum books, and they have changed a bit over time, but essentially they’re the same. Perhaps that is why when I finish reading one book, I can’t wait to read the next and see what these unusual individuals will become involved in.  

As one who writes memoirs, I’m unable to take this artistic license. I can describe my character’s appearance and show their personalities through their behavior, but essentially I must portray them truthfully. I adhere to the often repeated phrases “tell the truth” and “write what you know.” By doing so, I was labeled “Ms. Suburbia” by one writing teacher, yet I’ve also discovered that my readers can relate to my own life. Most of us don’t lead adventurous lives like Stephanie Plum, yet our lives do provide rich material for great stories—and the lessons we’ve learned may help others.