Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Would You See Your Character At The Mall?

O.K. I understand the paranormal people will answer no to this, but hold that thought for a second. What I am talking about today is simply making your characters believable.

As an author, it is your job to create the most believeable story for your readers. Obviously, a key factor here deals with character development. Too often, I read stories from authors that have characters acting and saying things that, in reality, they would never behave this way.

One of the first areas where I see this time and time again is the mismatch between the characters actions and their professions. While there are those "exceptions" to the rule out there, we have to look at the way your character acts in that profession and how it aligns with the real world. For example, let's take teaching. If your heroine is a returning student, she is not going to get involved with the professor. Although there might be an attraction, it will not happen. This stems strictly from the Ethics Clauses that are in the contracts of the schools.

Let's try the situations we see over and over again in romantic suspense with the detective becoming involved with a client, or the person they are investigating. Again, this is not going to happen because it not only blows the credibility of the detective, it might blow any potential case and court situation.

The second area we see this mismatch comes from the way you have your characters acting in each situation. This is where a real understanding of human nature comes into play. Let me bring up the romantic suspense situation again. I am always laughing at the suspense stories where the two characters are being chased by the bad guy. This is a life and death situation and yet, in an effort to create the "sexual tension" the author suddenly has them getting it on. Umm, I don't know about you, but if I am in a crisis situation, the odds are I am not going to be thinking about sex.

Consider all of the other emotions. How does a real person, in the real world, act and behave when they are:
  • angry?
  • happy?
  • grieving?
  • euphoric?
  • etc.????
Just because you need the story to go a particular way does not mean you can ignore how a person will act within a given emotional conflict.

As you edit, you need to stop and look at each scene. Don't focus so much on where the story is going to; instead, look at the emotional context of the story. Look at who the character is. Is everything truly in alignment?

Have fun.



  1. LOL...I read a book a few years ago where while the characters were on the run from the "bad guys" the author had them engage in a three day sex marathon! It took me right out of the story. I think the scenes could have worked, but later in the book.

  2. Great post as usual and the part about engaging in sex while in the middle of a crisis situation, yeah, I see that one a lot and I just don't get it. I could see that happening AFTER the crisis has been resolved but during, while on the run? I read one when they were fleeing bad guys and had a bout of sex in an elevator, for goodness sake! I haven't read that author since, no matter how high she's climbed.

  3. Definitely not thinking of sex in a crisis situation...unless of course the world is getting ready to end. My paranormal characters are very cool, so I would love to see them at the mall.

  4. I'd say so. Well, the MFC and her best friend. The love triangle paranormal boys? Maaaybe not. Yet.

  5. I agree with making them real, but at the same time some of these freaking best sellers have bodyguard with client, student with professor, therapist with client, boss with subordinate, and sex in elevators, on airplanes, in the boardroom, etc. It seems lot of women's fantasies are the inappropriate relationship at the inappropriate place.

    I do agree about keeping reactions and sequel scenes realistic to bridge believability, but just like all the action/shooting scenes where heroes run through a hail of bullets, everything in fiction is bigger, bolder, brasher, and more over the top, at least in genre fiction.

    Thanks for the reminder though, not to kick the reader out of the scene with a "huh? who'd do that?"