I’m sure all of us have had the experience of having someone we know act totally out of character–the person who is known as a gossip actually keeps a secret, the person who is grumpy all of the time actually smiling and being pleasant for a change, the person who thinks they are superior to everyone else bending down and putting money in a homeless person’s cup, that kind of thing.
That got me to thinking about if or when that happens during the writing process. You might have one idea about how a character is going to be, and then when you start putting words on the page, the character turns out to be someone totally different. Or what about during the revision process? You have started writing a character one particular way through the first few chapters of your novel, and then they suddenly change halfway through it. Now, I’m not saying characters shouldn’t change throughout your novel. If they’re going to stay interesting, they should. But, there should be reasons for the changes, not something that happens totally out of left field. If your reader can’t understand why the character has changed, they will get confused and might even stop reading.
So, what should the answer be to characters who won’t act properly? Well, make sure they have motivation for whatever they’re doing, that the situation they’ve come upon is reason enough for them to act differently. Also, make sure the characters are well-defined to start with. If they’re not, it would be easy to have them change in ways that make no sense. And finally, have fun crafting those characters who can be as stubborn as the rest of us regular human beings.
Until next time, be real!