Something I always strive for in my books is the integrity of a character’s personality and their decisions. Not necessarily that the characters have integrity, but that the things they do line up with who they are.
Their choices and history, their thoughts and their opinions and the things they do and say.
I want these things to mesh, to make sense.
The way that I write makes it a little easier since the characters drive. I don’t force their hands or push them into neat little boxes. They become fully formed people with something akin to a level of autonomy. (Yes, I know that logically isn’t the case, but that’s what it feels like.)
As such, their decisions are aligned with their personalities, the way they fit into the world (or don’t), and the traumas they’ve dealt with/ran from (because let’s be honest here, all my characters are dealing with at least one traumatic event).
But for people who don’t let their characters take the reins from the get go, or anyone who’s ever suffered writer’s block (so all writers), it may not always be that simple.
Sometimes, you write yourself into a corner. Sometimes the characters make so many bad choices that they get stuck, which really just means that you, the writer, are stuck.
Some people consult their highly detailed character bibles or rehash their outlines at that point.
If I get stuck, if I don’t know what a character would do, I may just listen to the playlist that I’ve crafted for them, composed of every song I’ve heard that made me think of them. Or I may look at them through the lense of my psych degree.
Or maybe I’ll do something repetitive but active enough to get my blood pumping, then let my mind drift. Add the playlist to that, and it really helps.
Why am I telling you this?
Why do I strive to maintain integrity across their personalities and actions?
Because it matters.
Because reading a book packed with characters that act in ways that don’t make sense for their personality or their past is infuriating.
If a character that gets into trouble all the time for speaking out of turn and telling everyone exactly what they think suddenly has trouble expressing themselves the one time it’s convenient for the plot to have a misunderstanding… it’s going to piss off a lot of readers.
A character that’s never drank or even had the desire to do so suddenly gets plastered the one night you need them to not remember anything?
Probably going to piss off readers.
These things need to have a logical progression leading to them. The characters shouldn’t do things that don’t make sense for them to do.
Their actions may be stupid or the wrong choice to make, but if it’s a choice that’s consistent with their previous decision making processes or the evolution that you’ve already showcased, then it works.
Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.
Want to fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.
Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).