Saturday, July 3, 2010

When Characters Won't Behave

by Sandy Tritt

What if your character won't behave?

Have you ever had that problem? You've sat down and created a character, giving him or her just the right eye color, height, and family background, and then he simply refuses to do and say the things you need him to do and say. What has happened?

I'll tell you what has happened. You have achieved the ultimate success as a writer: you've brought your character to life. Not only has your character become multi-dimensional, he is exercising free will.

So, what can you do? One of two things. You'll either need to "fire" this character and move him to your "Characters for Hire" file, or you'll need to accommodate his desires and allow him to take on a different role in your story. This means you need to open your mind to the possibilities--and you may very well discover your story will take on a new dimension.

When characters mature, they become so real to us we know how they will react in any given situation--or, if they would avoid a situation altogether. "Real" characters are what make a reader stay glued to the page and want to read more. "Real" characters are what make us laugh and cry and become angry. "Real characters" are why we write--and for what we strive.

Our Inspiration for Writers Tips and Techniques Workbook includes a section on the Lifecycle of a Character. In it, we discuss ways to bring a character to life, from the point of conception to the breath of life to emotional maturity, and offer a variety of worksheets to help you discover all the nuances of your character's personality. If you don't yet have a copy of this workbook, be sure to order it at Even better, invite one of our editors to give a workshop on the Life Cycle of a Character. We're here for you.

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