8. The Seven Deadly Perils of Style

Page 8 of 10 | Derivative Plots | Grammar and Usage | Viewpoint Wobbles | Viewpoint Transitions | Said-bookisms |
| AWAKS and Infodumps | Xblmrph | Out of Character | Bad Science | Taking Liberties |

Characters Step Out (of Character)
You've gone to a lot of trouble to make your characters seem like real people. Or real aliens. Or elves. You know how hard you've worked at it.

Don't let all that blood, sweat, and tears go to waste by letting your characters slip out of character. Wooden or unnatural dialogue is one thing that will make your characters less real. But another trap is to allow your characters to behave in ways that are inconsistent with the personality traits you've established for them. For example, how many times have you seen the previously intelligent, competent, and independent heroine suddenly shriek and cling like an idiot to the male lead? All too often, probably. This is what I mean by letting your characters slip out of character.

Usually this occurs when you need — or think you need — something to happen for the sake of the plot. And the mistake you make — and every writer does this at least once, before learning better — is to go ahead and let Jennifer act "out of character," in order to get the blasted plot going in the direction you want. And you hope the reader won't notice.

Well, guess what — the reader will notice.

If you think you might be falling prey to this trap, ask yourself: Would I buy this character's actions if this were a play on stage or a movie on the screen? If the answer is no, ask yourself whether maybe the plot needs to go in another direction. Or, on the other hand, do you need to rethink your character?

 
 

Course content copyright © 2005 Jeffrey A. Carver
May not be reproduced without permission of the author.
Visit the Science Fiction Worlds of Jeffrey A. Carver.