Today's tip is all about decision making - your characters', that is. You know that stereotype about how characters in horror movies always make really poor choices that they wouldn't make in real life? Unfortunately, this is something we see fairly often in manuscripts (and even query letters) that need some TLC. So ask yourself:
Are my characters' decisions realistic and true to their motivations?
If a character misses her older brother she doesn't get to see very often, she's not going to ignore the phone when he calls. If a character is a scaredy-cat, you'd better provide them with a good reason to go investigate that bump in the night. If a character is trying to get from point A to point B as fast as he can, he isn't likely to stop and smell the roses.
Too often we focus on what we as authors want to have happen next, and we force our characters to make bizarre choices that don't make sense. Doing this reminds the reader that the character is nothing more than a construct in a story. If you need a character to do something out of their normal, established behavior, then you have to give them a believable push in that direction. We're human beings; we're resistant to change at a fundamental level. Even if you're writing non-human characters, we expect internal consistency. Either you give your character a push, or you need to listen to your character and figure out what they would really do in that situation. Sometimes their natural reactions make for an even better story.
Every Wednesday and Saturday we bring you an edit tip of the day. Be sure to check out the archives for our popular summer series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!