Creating Flawed Characters

So I’ve told you I write as three people. DH Black writes erotic thrillers mostly highlighting cops and firemen, the coast guard and the military. I talk about serial killers and other horrors. Here is a taste of what “he” does…

I think because we are well aware none of us are perfectly sane or without a troubling past to some degree. We’ve all been there with a family member or work and some of us have had to deal with things we certainly either don’t want to talk about, can’t or refuse to let the events take over our lives. These are what I call the everyday heroes and my characters in The Retribution Collection all have something tragic in their past they can barely tolerate. Some are longing for retribution while others simply are trying to have a normal every day life.

When we select a book to read some of us chose by the cover alone. They can be powerful in both their color and the title and sometimes that alone is enough to draw our interest. Then there’s the synopsis and if we aren’t certain and read and are drawn into the worlds then we’re hooked. For me personally I think when I read about the character who has something they’re hiding I want to find out what drives him or her. I want to know the ugly secret and when I find out I’m praying and hoping they’ll be able to get through their moments of anguish.

Haven’t we all read books where we’ve been rooting for our hero or heroine and in the end we feel short changed? Perhaps the author provided a twist they thought was sensational or they were alluding to the possibility of another book but we were left with a sense of almost loathing and completely unsatisfied because our hero died or perhaps didn’t win the heart of the fair maiden. As writers we take a huge risk when we’re putting together the piece and especially the ending. Will the reader get what we’re trying to say?

Try having a flawed character that you may or may not like initially and hoping the reader will be sympathetic enough to continue reading to learn why the guy acts like a jerk or the woman sleeps around. It’s because we want them to succeed. Since we all have flaws we also want to read about characters who have almost insurmountable issues because when they overcome them we’re elated and excited. Our heart races and we cry and sometimes scream for them. It takes us away from our everyday lives and reminds us we aren’t alone in suffering.

In creating Inferno I wanted my hero to really experience being a hero and he does. He’s not only saving lives by fighting fires but he’s one hot guy who’s nice as can be and television reporters are drawn to him. While I didn’t want him arrogant I wanted you to know right up front he’s hiding something so traumatic for him he’s not certain he’ll ever get out of the dark place. And then tragedy strikes and he’s forced to face more than one demon buried inside. It’s erotic yes but very gritty and in the end I think it’ll give you pause. I do always place a twist in my pieces but I think you’ll enjoy the wild ride for my hero – my fireman and so I tip my hat to the men and women who serve and protect us every day. Without you our very worlds wouldn’t be the same.

Take a taste of Inferno – the second in The Retribution Collection.

“Oh my God! The entire building is going to go! We got here too late. Where’s the fucking Goddamn ladder company? Shit!”

Lieutenant Troy Danton shivered as he stood on the street staring at the flames licking out of almost every window. Billows of black smoke towered above the building as the extreme heat had already melted the fire escape on the right side of the building. Liquid metal oozed down the brick in silent streams. “Fuck! Is this damn thing abandoned?” He eyed the fire team and sighed.

“I don’t know. I’ve heard the homeless use this one sometimes.”

Hearing Bart’s strangled voice Troy could tell how worried his buddy was. They’d seen this type of fire before and prayed no one was inside. “Look. Get the water started and I’m going to go floor by floor.”

“You can’t until back up comes and you know that!” Bart snapped.

“If there’s anyone inside I don’t think I don’t think we have time.” Troy scanned the perimeter of the building and snapped his helmet in place. His gut was telling him something wasn’t right.

Bart wrapped his hand around Troy’s arm. “You have got to stop playing the fucking hero. You’re going to get yourself fucking killed here. Wait on the other truck, man. Wait.”

Just then the sound of glass shattering above them drew their attention. Troy shaded his eyes from glimmer of the afternoon sun and hissed, ducking as shards rained over them. “Oh shit! Look!” As two more fireman ran forward Troy stood watching in horror as what appeared to be a man dart his head out of the window and scream, his arms flailing wildly.

“Help me!”

Crack! Boom!

As he gave another strangled scream, a horrendous sound of cracking timbers and twisting steel floated around them. Sparks of red-hot embers trickled down from the top floors showering the sidewalk.

“God. I hate this shit! These buildings aren’t safe. Okay Bart, go work on the water and Troy let’s go to the other side and see if we can contain the fire from there. Damn it they better get here fast. Who the fuck called this in? This is shaping up to be a Signal 2-2-2.”

Troy stole a glance at the man in charge of their crew and shook his head. Bart was right. The fire was much more than a single engine and ladder crew. His body shaking he made a decision and prayed to God it was the right one. “There’s no time, Michael and you know it. I’m going in.”

“Don’t you dare for God’s sake,” Michael hissed.

But Troy wasn’t paying any attention. His adrenaline kicking into overdrive he raced toward the building, securing his facemask as the sounds of sirens emitted a shrill scream in the distance. He’d been down this road more than once and knew the drill. Some called him fearless. Others called him stupid but on this day he was determined to make sure and keep any innocents alive.

He moved cautiously into the building knowing exactly how the hot the fire was. Contained on the one side, it was going to spread rapidly given the level of debris in what appeared to be an old warehouse space. From his experience there was too much immediate damage to be anything but a set fire. While the homeless sometimes lit fires to keep warm, the massive damage suggested something else. Damn it these places were supposed to have been cleaned out. There was no telling what types of combustibles were lying around. Hearing a series of pops and cracks he flipped on the flashlight and watched every step as he headed for what had to be the stairwell.

As the heat rose around him he heard the sounds of another truck approaching. Budget cuts had made all the departments thin in employees and any wrong moves meant lives could be lost. Troy crept along the wall hovering close to the floor as he made it up the last three flights of stairs. A booming noise sounded from the other end and he could tell a portion of the building was ready to collapse. This wasn’t the damn best place to be in. Sucking in his breath Troy said a silent prayer and listened intently for the sound of victims.

He searched from room to room as the smoke grew thicker until he could barely make out anything. Damn it! He couldn’t give up. Not when he was this close to finding the man. There were few places left to search and allow a window of opportunity to keep them both alive. Troy swept the powerful beam of the flashlight through an area that had obvious signs of temporary quarters. He’d found where the man was holed up. Crackles and pops met every step and the heat became almost intolerable. The whir of a ladder rising toward what appeared to be a bank of windows on the opposite side of the room meant the team was getting closer. But was it going to be too late?

Worried about a flash fire he could tell but the rising heat things were getting out of control. At least given the expansive open areas he didn’t think a backdraft situation was going to happen. Unable to call out he continued his sweep of the room worried the man had jumped and given the height of the building the man would surely fall to his death. Panting, he licked his dry lips and continued on until a floorboard shifted under him. He heard the splintering sound of the boards beneath his feet just as a strangled cry came from the other side of the room.

“Help me…” The voice was barely audible as the man coughed and cried out. “Please…I don’t want…to die here…”

Calculating his next move Troy took a single step and immediately dropped through the floor as the area in front of him gave way. “Fuck!” His voice muffled, Troy was able to catch himself with his arms but lost the flashlight in the fall. The light bounced in front of him and rolled, stopping precariously close to what Troy could easily see was a drop off point into nowhere. Gasping for air he controlled his breathing as the flashlight shifted again and the beam pointed on the man who stood frozen in far corner of the room, a look of sheer terror riding his face. This was so not good.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Troy hissed and willed his upper body into action. Using the strength of his forearms he was just able to drag himself out of the hole, grateful nothing appeared to be broken but he sure as shit wasn’t out of the woods yet. As he eyed the rolling smoke he knew it was just a matter of time. Every move calculated he maneuvered around the hole and was able to snag the light. Losing his balance, he almost tumbled forward into the blackness.

Troy stopped for a second to catch his breath just as an explosion rocketed the back of the building. A shower of debris exploded over him sending Troy pitching forward. Hitting the floor with a hard thud the wind was knocked out of him. This is nuts. What the hell are you doing? But he pushed the ugly voice in the back of his mind. He could do this. He could save the man.


The man’s voice was getting weaker and as Troy struggled to his feet he blinked furiously. The damn smoke was so thick he could barely see anything but he pushed forward and with each step his took terror oozed down his spine until he was nearly paralyzed. Think. You can do this. Move forward. But he couldn’t. Remaining rooted to the spot he shook violently and swung the light around to where he thought the man was. Had he moved? Unable to see anything he was determined to get to a window and get the hell out of here. Light burst into the sweltering room as glass exploded spilling allowing him to see just a glimmer of the man. Suddenly he didn’t want to do anything but get out and save himself.


Troy heard not only the sound of the man’s almost breathless cry but also those of others who were just outside. Hissing, he willed himself to move forward taking two small steps and then was rocketed forward by a series of hard blasts. Landing several feet in front he stole a glance over his shoulder as a ball of fire roared down the hallway toward them. Something snapped in his head and he jerked to his feet, pummeling his body toward the man. He managed to snag the older gentleman around the waist and tug his frail body toward the window just as a rush of white-hot heat enveloped their bodies. Troy wrapped his body around the man in a cocoon formation and raced toward the window praying to God the crew had maneuvered the air mattresses in place or they were both toast.

He had one chance to save them and Troy knew it. As he made it to the window, kicking remnants of glass shards to widen the space he took one look down as the searing heat took his breath away sucking at the air. Saying a silent prayer he took a giant leap out of the window.

Hope you enjoyed…





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About Cassandre Dayne

Cassandre Dayne is the pseudo for the best selling author of romantic suspense and thrillers
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