HOW TO KEEP YOUR CHARACTERS BELIEVABLE
Risk taking is what defines good writing. It’s the unexpected that makes the reader’s bottom lip tremble in anticipant trepidation, waiting for your story to unfold. These risks are tough, because we want to maintain a story that’s consistent, and taking those risks teeters on the edge of being unbelievable.
Continuing from yesterday, let’s define something a little more clearly. Even though we are jumping off a bridge, make sure that there is water underneath. We aren’t plummeting to our literary deaths; we simply want to make the thrill ride is exhilarating.
Let’s clarify. We cannot create a risk simply for shock value, just so that we can say that we have taken risks. We would probably end up having fickle characters and ridiculous plot lines.
These “risks” have to be scheduled. To quote The Joker from The Dark Knight, “It’s all part of the plan.”
If our tender brunette from yesterday goes over and “jumps off a bridge” by attacking the man, how can we take her out of the psychotic state? I mean, it’s pretty nutso for someone to just start wailing on another person, even if that person is eating her last piece of bread.
Let’s give it some risk taking flare, so that she’s not diving onto concrete.
What would she eat? This was all she brought, and now she would be left to starve on this wretched island. She sprang to her feet and raced towards the imbecile who paid no attention to her as she ravaged her last meal, the food that he’d stolen. Wrestling him to the ground, she elbowed him in the face and tore the bread out his hands, stuffing it into her mouth before he could react.
Here’s a situation where there’s water under the bridge, so she’s safe. Now her reactions are connected to her hunger. No one would expect her to do what she did, her response is necessary, and the reader will cheer her on for her courage.
If she were to simply beat the man to a bloody pulp with nothing more than her baser instincts, we presume her to be a different character than the one we’re writing.
Think about your WIP, and consider your characters, especially the ones whose attitudes are well-defined. Does your character treat people maliciously? Maybe you take a risk and have her care for someone for some reason.
The risks are limitless. If you have a politician who’s corrupt, maybe he is forced to make a just decision that the reader will accept.
We’ll discuss risks some more tomorrow. Thanks!