Thursday, January 7, 2016

Think For Your Characters Because They Aren't

One of the reasons I often reject projects stems from the actions of the characters. In all honesty, there are authors out there writing novels with characters who make those on America's Funniest Home Videos or America's Stupidest Criminals look normal. Even Jerry Spring looks normal.

I understand that many of you are "trying to create drama" or "developing conflict," but the truth is your readers simply cannot relate to characters that are doing things that are not realistic. Even though we call this writing fiction, the things your characters say and do must be realistic. We have to be able to say that our next door neighbor would likely do something like that.

One of the biggest one I see is when an author, in order to transplant a character into unfamiliar territory is when we move the big city person to the small town. That part is fine. We see a lot of people try to do this, BUT it is most often in a vacation type of format. But here is where it becomes unrealistic. When you have someone with a perfect 6 figure job in a great company decide it is "just time to quit" because that last board meeting was tough, it starts to take the wrong turn. And then the authors push it even further. The heroine's are going to start up a B&B or Cake shop in a hole-in-the-wall city with no experience. The hero is going to start up a small practice law firm in a town that probably only deals with wills. Really???

It doesn't just stop with the plot elements either. You have these characters saying things and doing things within the story that, again, the odds are human nature would say they wouldn't do. Characters arguing in the middle of church. Marching into a business office in skimpy clothes to "turn on the boss" she has the hots for... The list goes on and on.

While these scenes might be funny at times, when the entire book is composed of these, or the scenes are too extreme, you simply lose the reader. I have mentioned this comment before, but another agent I worked with made the comment during panel saying "Don't give me a reason to say no." If I am on the border with your story and then you throw something like this in the story, you just got to no.

Keep it real. Keep your characters out of trouble. Think for them. They need your help. You need to be in control of their emotions.

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