Monday, March 26, 2012


Choices are a huge part of our lives.  That must be true for characters in novels, too.  Each and every character you write will be faced with choices, and some of them are going to be the wrong choices.  As someone who hates making mistakes, I cringe when my characters do something they shouldn't.  Or don't do something that they should.

But I still make them do it.  Why?  Because that leads to conflict!  And conflict is what leads to a great story.  Consequences are another fact of life, and in a novel, the consequences your protagonist suffers should be extreme.  And they should CHANGE that character so that they don't do it again.

That is key!  Human beings fail to learn from their mistakes over and over again, but when a character in a book fails to learn anything from their mistakes, we grow weary with them.  And sometimes they even make us mad.

Just because mistakes make us cringe, though, it doesn't mean that we should avoid them.  And we CERTAINLY shouldn't avoid making choices.   So go find a situation where your protagonist, antagonist, or even a secondary character can make a big choice that makes the "situation" worse!  Then make those characters work to solve it.


  1. LOL!! I was cringing while reading this just thinking of having my character make a mistake. But I agree. Mistakes show some humanity in the character and definitely creates conflict.

  2. Good points, Giles. Writers have lots of options – here's just three possible twists: The character makes a mistake, and is aware of the risk. The character makes a mistake, but is clueless about the risk. The character makes a mistake to intentionally cause problems. (We've all met characters who crave drama instead of avoiding risk and mistakes.)
    Is it any wonder that our stories take on a life of their own when the characters can take such a variety of turns?

  3. I totally agree with this--choices are such a vital part of fiction. I really get annoyed, though, when a character makes a choice that is completely out of character. It's important to make sure their choice isn't just for conflict's sake, but works with the story too :)