Monday, July 20, 2009


Staying True to Your Characters

Recently, my critique group called me out. They basically said, "We don't think your two main characters would act this way. We don't believe it." It was a consensus, and so back to the keyboard I went. I knew they were right--I couldn't put my finger on why things didn't seem to be going well toward the end of my young adult novel; but once they said it, I knew they were right.
How did this happen to my characters--and at the end of my novel? Why was I forcing them to act in unnatural ways just to get my plot going and my novel finished--finally??? It didn't work--I was miserable; they were miserable--well, you get the point.
When I decided to blog about this subject today, I was trying to think of some big universal point I could make about staying true to your characters; but entire books could be written about this subject. So I decided to sum it up like this for now: if your characters are acting "out-of-character," then they need a reason--and a big reason. Think about people you know well--your spouse, mother, best friend, child. You can most likely predict how they will act in a certain situation because you know them well, and you have interacted with them many times.
Your characters should be the same way. You know them well, right? How would they act during an earthquake? How would they act if someone was breaking up with them? Unless something HUGE happened to them first, such as a car accident or other life-changing experience, then they shouldn't act out of character. And you will feel it in your gut when your characters aren't doing what they are supposed to be doing--just like you feel it in your gut when you, yourself, are not acting like you should be.
I am so happy that my characters are now back in line--acting the way they are supposed to be acting. My plot is fixed, and I am on my way to the end of my novel as soon as I find the time to write that ending--ah, but that could be another blog post.
Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
photo by Kristian D.

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Blogger Analisa said...

Margo this is so timely. Just yesterday I had to confess that one of my characters had gone soft. While there was a huge life change it was just too soon to show the impact of it. I wrote what I desired for him, like a mother stepping in too soon instead of letting the child have an experience we know will come if we just step out of the way. I have to kill off a page and form a different direction for him, but it will be true.

7:09 AM  

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