What is the binding agent that makes a character cohere? No matter how much I write, how many books I study, how many conferences I attend, I have never been able to figure it out. Last night, I was reading Olive Kitteridge, a group of short stories that recently won the Pulitzer Prize. In one story (Security), all the elements came together so that the title character ceased to be an amalgam of traits invented by the author and instead became a real person with depth and dimension. In the very next tale, the disparate parts failed to stick, and like my wife’s last Jello mold, wavered in the dish squishy and unappetizing. If anyone has a recipe, a magic ingredient, a corn starch secret that will start that chemical reaction, I’d like to hear it.