It’s about The Character
I believe that a good book is about the character(s). The story, the surroundings, the world, the environment, the antagonist are all second to the character. If you aren’t emotionally vested in the protagonist, then why keep reading?
That’s the place to start. People often said to me, “Write what you know,” so in my first book, I wrote about myself. Victor Tookes is based on me because I’m a bad-ass mf-ing zombie slaying father, right? Well, not so much the badass. Or the mf-ing zombie slayer. But I am a father. And really, at it’s core, What Zombies Fear is about being a father. It’s about taking care of your child at whatever personal cost, whatever the risk.
Because I was writing about me in a fantastic situation, writing Victor was relatively easy, but there were a few pitfalls. When a situation arose that required a decision, it was instinctual for me. What ever *I* would do is what Victor would do. Being HONEST in my reactions was the hard part. It would have been easy to have him *always* make the right choice, because I know what was going to happen. Being honest about my own faults, and including them in the book was also difficult. Even superman has faults and weaknesses. I don’t think anyone wants to read a story about a perfect person. I think there has to be some growth of the character throughout the story.
In Will of the Dead, I find that there are also parts of me in Will. He’s almost a polar opposite of Victor, and yet, there are still parts of me in him. Will is a guy who talks his way out of a lot of trouble. That’s definitely me. Other parts of Will are exaggerations of traits I see in myself, for instance, Will doesn’t really care much about laws. I’ve long held that certain laws (speed limits, full stops at stop signs, no U-Turn signs) don’t apply to me. Will just takes that a couple steps further.
Where Victor is an exaggeration of my heroic side, Will is an embellishment of my “less heroic” side.
Characters must have flaws. Even Superman has weaknesses, otherwise why would anyone want to read about them? The “perfect” character is boring.
Build them as you build your story, brick by brick, layer by layer.