A Rare Day Off for Your Character #amwriting

So you have this character who has a goal. That’s what stories are about, isn’t it? A character with a goal? And obstacles to overcome in order to reach that goal?

But maybe you don’t want the pursuit of that goal to be relentless. That’s thriller stuff, and maybe you don’t write thrillers.

In the book I’m reading now, LIGHTNING IN THE BLOOD by Gregory Fallis, each of the detectives have ways to unwind. One of them likes to hang out with his wife. The other one likes to hang out with his partner and his wife, because they represent marital happiness. Then he’s sad, because he doesn’t have a marriage, let alone a happy one. Sometimes he watches fishing shows. You haven’t read good writing until you’ve read Gregory Fallis having Joop talk about fishing shows.

Everything2The reason Fallis is so good is that his characters are absolutely individual. They can do the same thing at the same time, be on the same page about it, sometimes even have the same general reaction to it, but they’re far far far from identical.

Janwillem van de Wetering did the same thing with his police officer partners. They never just played with a cat or did a jigsaw puzzle; everything they did, they did as individuals.

You want to reach for that in your own characters.

WRONG: They both went to the amusement park.

WRONG: I’ll make Priscilla think the roller coaster is fun, so I’ll make Murgatroyd be scared.

RIGHT: What does the roller coaster feel like to Priscilla? What does the roller coaster feel like to Murgatroyd? What does it remind them of, what does it make them think of, and how does it affect their senses? What’s the aftermath for each of them?

Whether your characters take down time by racing motorcycles or by listening to classical music in a hot bath, whether your down time is a chapter or a paragraph, let it be specific to each of your characters, and never generic.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: What does your main character do to relax?



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “A Rare Day Off for Your Character #amwriting

  1. Jane

    September 12, 2016 at 2:11pm

    I love giving characters a different voice. I don’t seem to know them until I can get them to start speaking in their own way. I don’t even need to know anything about them, if I can just get this feeling about how they talk, I can go from there.

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      Marian Allen

      September 12, 2016 at 5:20pm

      Anna Deveare Smith does the same thing with acting! She would observe people, then recreate how they spoke, stood, moved, and let that internalize how they thought and felt. She’s freakin’ brilliant!

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