What Would Your Character Do?

Imagine this situation. You're reading a book. (Not too difficult to imagine so far.) It's about a girl named Kathy who's really into science and nature. She likes new stuff, especially if it's weird, and she doesn't mind getting dirty. A boy shows her a neat bug he found, and she gets grossed out. You get mad and throw the book against the wall. 

Or you're watching a television show, and the vegan who's obsessed with health food is shown snacking on one of those convenience store processed meat sticks. Or maybe it's a movie. It doesn't matter. The important thing is that a character did something that character would never do, you know it, and it ticks you off. 

A good character feels as real as a good friend. When good friends act out of character, you get worried. When characters act out of character, you get angry at the writers.

So how can you avoid writing inconsistent characters?

By getting to know your characters, of course. 

The trick to writing realistic characters is to get really deep into your character's mind. One of my favorite ways to do this is to ask how your character would respond to different events.

After you’ve covered the basics—age, job, appearance, hobbies, and so on—start thinking about what your character would do in various situations. They don’t have to be things that will come up in your book. The point is simply to get a better understanding of your character. 

For example, what would your character do if he found a wallet? This never happens in my children's novel Dead Boy, but I still know how the various characters would react. Crow would promptly return the wallet to the owner. Melody would go through it to learn about the owner, just in case he's a spy or a werewolf or something interesting like that. Mrs. Darlingson would leave it—it's really none of her concern. Luke, I'm ashamed to say, would pocket the cash and throw everything else away, although perhaps Crow's positive influence will change this. 

Here are a few more situations to get you started.

What would your character do if a rude stranger bumped into him?

What would your character do if told the planet was about to be destroyed by an asteroid?

What would your character do if he was wrongly accused of a crime?

What would your character do if a kitten started following him?

What would your character do if he was running late for school or work?

What would your character do if he accidentally damaged another person’s property and no one witnessed it?


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