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One thing I am often irritated by when reading  is characters who make obviously poor decisions.   Movie characters aren’t immune, of course.

Of course, characters are allowed – and should be – human.  They will undoubtedly have foibles, and making bad choices is certainly going to be a part of that.  In real life, bad choices are usually a result of: incomplete information, poorly predicting the possible outcomes, or acting under pressure.  Most authors navigate this masterfully, showing why a character will make the wrong choice in a given situation.  The best writers will make you understand the character and their  so well, that you feel convinced that it’s their best option – or even a good option – at the time.

And then there are the characters who do obviously stupid things because they’ll be “fun” or just because they’re impulsive.  Even impulsive people have motivations, though, and even they understand when there are risks involved.  I can be impulsive myself, but there’s always a line that doesn’t get crossed.

A recent book I read, the first installment of the Cirque du Freak series (by Darren Shan) had one of those moments where I squirmed because the character was doing something just plain stupid.  Stealing a giant, deadly, and hard to control spider from a vampire?  Sounds like a great idea, right?  And why did the character feel compelled to do this?  In his own words, “I’m note sure . . .”

So to all my fellow writers out there:  If your character must do something stupid, at least give him a reason.

 

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One Comment

  1. Character decision making is a fine balance, but you’re right: “I’m not sure”, shouldn’t be their motivation. That’s a cheap short cut to plot in my opinion.


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