I see in a lot of submissions:
their own agendas that they don’t react like normal human beings to what is
going on around them.
character with an agenda:
Sharon was thinking about the cute new
boy in her math class as she walked to school with Julie. She wondered whether
Julie thought he was cute or not. If Julie was interested, Sharon didn’t stand
“So what do you think of Barney?” Sharon
asked. “The new kid in Math.”
you talking about the kid who—”
Before Julie could finish her sentence, a
car screeched around the corner and smashed into a fire hydrant not fifteen
feet from where the girls stood.
Water sprayed up like a geyser.
A man crawled out of the driver’s seat,
getting soaked in the process.
“You know,” Sharon said, steering Julie
away from the water. “Barney. The kid who just moved here from California. What
do you think of him?”
Let Go of the Agenda
Speaking, one time about characters reacting in unrealistic ways, freelance editor
Rebecca LuElla Miller said:
Never let a character act or speak just to convey information to
the audience. They always have to act according to their own personalities. Ask
yourself, “What would she say next?” rather than asking, “What does the reader
need to know now?”
personalities. They also need to react to the world in a natural way. “
Be Aware When Editing
My characters most often fail
to react to things that I’ve edited into a second or third draft.
I gave you above we can see that Sharon’s agenda is to find out if Julie is
interested in Barney.
draft I often notice that I was writing fast on the first pass and my
characters are having conversations with no scenery to show us where they are.
So I add in things. They are walking down the street. What does it look like?
It’s a big city so there are cars going by. Then I begin to try to do two
things at once. “Hey,” I’ll think, “this is a good time to foreshadow the
accident that is going to occur in chapter thirteen. I’ll have a car skid
around the corner. That will set up the fact that it’s a dangerous corner.”
around the corner. And then sometimes I forget that the characters have to
react to the new element I’ve just added in.
books or manuscripts with cardboard characters? What caused them to feel