Monday, April 27, 2009

Know Why Characters Act The Way They Do

“A character can do anything you like if he has a reason and the reason comes out of his history. If he does not act in accordance with the readers’ image of who he is, they’ll feel manipulated for the sake of plot, and they’ll resent it enough to pull back from your story.” – Gillian Roberts in You Can Write a Mystery.
If a character in one of my stories acts strangely, meaning out of character, I realize it's my fault. I haven't done my homework to develop a complete character in my own mind, nor have I presented a believable person to the reader.

I had to think a lot about the main character in my last story. He and I had little in common. I didn't worry about this during the first draft, but in subsequent revisions, I stopped a number of times and questioned whether his actions and dialog were true to his character. I changed a number of actions and left out dialog that he wouldn't have said. It took longer to complete the story, but it was worth the effort. I didn't receive any comments in the critiques sent to me questioning the main character's actions, dialog, or motivations.

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