Don’t Have Stupid Characters

By November 4, 2013Writing Tips

The post title is pretty self explanatory but let’s delve into it a bit shall we? How many of us as readers get annoyed when we figure something out long before the character and then the story drags and drags as mentally we just keep saying “Come on already. They totally should’ve caught on by now!” It makes what could’ve been a great experience into just an okay one, and a just okay book into down right awful.

Most of the time as readers we like to be given information that the characters don’t know, however, when there’s an event or a situation that should’ve been a light bulb moment and the character is just clueless and still doesn’t know? That’s a problem. This reads untrue to any semi-smart human being and even if you have a dopey/stupid character — fine — but make them that way all the time, with all decisions. When characters don’t learn or realize things for an extended period of time it feels like the author is extending the conflict because there’s nothing else going on.

This falls right along with giving your characters some common sense. When they take everything at face value and don’t question what they’re being told, yeah it feels fake and contrived, like the author had no other ideas for conflict. The trick would be throwing in an instance or two as a subplot when a lapse in common sense raises the stakes (especially in an already high stake climax plot wise).

Yeah, No.

Being too easily manipulated also comes to mind, and it can really ruin the realism of any story. So don’t fall into that trap. An example? The Prince in Mirror Mirror, he seemed pretty smart and with it (And I actually kinda liked him) until he took the Queen’s word at face value and wouldn’t listen to Snow White. Yeah I’m aware it’s a spoof type movie and fun, but really? They couldn’t give him a little more intuitiveness? And then turning him into a guy who acts like a dog didn’t help either. I definitely want some more good prince characters out there à la Prince Henry from Ever After. So I guess I’ll just have to write those stories myself but more on that later.

We relate to stories most easily when the characters are relatable, have faults, and make mistakes, but this doesn’t mean making them blind to all possible flashes of insight and inspiration. Let’s give our characters some life and make sure they aren’t acting stupid in very convenient places just to extend plot and word count.

Cheers!

Make sure to check out the latest DanielleWAM post When Your Writing Gets a Burst

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