Friday, 3 December 2010

Stay In Character

So, after several years of writing I'm still surprised and thrilled when I get another one of these ============>>>

You're writing what you think it an awesome scene, everything is going brilliantly, then all of a sudden, your character does or says something stupid. Or quirky. Or dirty. Heck, even blasphemous. Know what I mean?

Now, while there's nothing wrong with any of these scenarios, your fingers suddenly pause because, deep inside, your know something's wrong. You find yourself thinking, hmmm, would he/she really say that at this particular moment? And therein lies my problem. I had a line I really wanted my character to say. It was awesome. It rocked. I repeated it to my husband and he loved it! But somehow, my hero just hated it.

He tried to say it at the beginning of the sentence. Didn't work. In the middle of the sentence, with a stupid grin on his face. Didn't work. At the end, with one raised brow, clenched jaw and fist clenched. Er, heck no, it didn't work.

Guess why not? Because that would've meant him acting out of character.

Let me give an example: Your character is a mime, doing his routine, thrilling the audience. Then halfway through his routine... he speaks. This is the equivalent of throwing the reader completely out of the story. If it goes spectacularly wrong, your book can even end up being a wallbanger (cringe).

My character rebelled because what I was trying to get him to say just wasn't HIM. He knew what he wanted to say and he got pretty frustrated that I wasn't finding the right words for him.

Now, previously, I would've have just got him to express himself better without knowing exactly what he was doing wrong. But now I know exactly what he's doing wrong and I even have a name for it, yipppeeee. Spotting the mistake a mile off is a huge relief and saves me loads of time (and this is where learning craft helps). It may not sink in initially, or even for a while after you learn a new trick or two (like me), but after while, once you keep writing, it will come to you.

And hopefully, you will share it with me *wink*

Maya xx


  1. Very glad he's telling you what he wants to say, Maya. Very alpha of him! You're so right though, sometimes that perfect line is YOU not your character. Save it for the next story!

  2. I hate it when you have the most amazingly written sentence or phrase and it doesn't fit. Most unfair. But Salty is right, these alpha men are very kind to us when they let us know there's no way they would say certain things. Keeps us on the straight and narrow ... kinda.

  3. I had the opposite problem recently - the hero shocked me by telling the heroine a detail about his past I hadn't planned on. Where did it come from?


  4. Me too, Sally, and yes, I have a feeling I know the right hero for that line ;)

  5. Salty's right in most things, JoC, I'm learning, ;)!

  6. Oooh, naughty hero, Suz! Was she totally shocked? Salacious ;)