This may sound like a weird thing to say, but, I do my best not to argue with my characters. I’ve finished my first novel, The Wages of Grace (coming January 2017!), and I must admit, if it’s nothing else, it’s honest.
I had a few trusted people read the manuscript when I was done with the first proper edit, and I had a lot of good suggestions. I took them all to heart and some I even implemented. However, when it came to character’s motivations or specific things they did that maybe didn’t seem to fit their profile, I was really torn. Some of the suggestions were very good. They were rational and made sense. They just didn’t feel right, though.
I believe that a good story is a human story, and sometimes, for reasons I don’t fully understand, my characters went off script.
Sometimes a crotchety and sour old man shows kindness. Sometimes a loving and faithful wife sleeps with the neighbor. Sometimes a normally calm and cerebral character bashes his fist on an apartment door while shouting obscenities.
Truth is, humans do these things.
And if we’re honest, there’s never really a moment when we have completely pure motivation to do anything.
Sure, you give money to the homeless guy at the red light because he needs help. But you also like the feeling you get when you help somebody.
Of course you pay your income taxes because you have a responsibility to your nation and supporting the government. You also don’t think you’d last more than a day in prison.
Naturally, you do the dishes and vacuum and pick some fresh flowers for the table because when your wife walks through the door after a long day at work you want her to feel cared for. But you’re also hoping to:
You’re human. And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
So when our characters act out of character… Let them. They’re human just like us.
Don’t judge them, don’t make them fit the mold, and don’t make them “behave.”
And don’t do that to yourself either.