Friday, October 26, 2012

ABC's of Writing - (J)ustify Your Character's Actions

As an agent (and a reader) I think the one thing that frustrates me the most is when I see characters doing something completely out of character. It is simply like the sound of fingers down a chalkboard. Check this one out! (For fun, play it out loud in your office to mess with your cubicle buddies).

More often than not, authors are worrying more about their plot, knowing they have to make something happen in the story, that they forget who their characters are and have them doing something that simply doesn't make sense. Your job is simple. Justify the actions of your character's actions, behaviors, and thoughts.

I am reminded to a comment a director of mine had when I was in one theatre productio. (No, I don't remember the show). We had been struggling with a lot of us moving around the stage because we felt things were too stagnate. In our heads, things seemed boring. The problem though, was that we were moving with absolutely no reason. The same goes for your writing. If your character has to see someone walking up the driveway and they are to see the person through the window, there needs to be a "real" motivation for that character to walk to the window.

Everything your characters do in the story have to be "justifiable" actions. There needs to be something in that person's past, or in their personality that would cause them to act a particular way.

Now, with that said, there is no need to create a huge dramatic backstory just to accomplish this. It can simply be their personality or their job that creates the action. If the hero is a "born again" pastor, this will dictate the behavior, dialogue and so forth.

What does this come down to? Thinking! Paying attention to what you say and knowing why you are saying these things!


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