Character Building

How to make the unbelievable believable

Evolution and Human Behavior cover
I don’t know about you, by my fiction writing has benefitted a great deal from studying motivation and personality theories. | Evolution and Human Behavior cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is believable? What does it mean to write a “believable” scene or character in a work of fiction that is not “true” to begin with? These are questions that fiction writers must tackle if they want readers to “buy in” to the tale they are telling.

Human beings act in unbelievable ways all the time, but it’s the motivation behind the actions that are most important. One fundamental element of writing is the study of human behavior and why people do the things they do. It’s not enough to simply tell a story about what our characters do. We must also explain why they act in a particular manner and do it in a way that will make our readers believe it.

Whenever a reader tells you that he or she finds your story or a particular character unbelievable, your first reaction should NOT be, “Well duh, it is fiction.” Instead, you should ask yourself, “What is this character’s motivation?” In other words, why is the character behaving so ridiculously? It’s not that your characters aren’t allowed to behave in an unbelievable manner. The problem is, you have to demonstrate for your reader that the behavior really is possible, or even probable, given the circumstances. Continue reading “How to make the unbelievable believable”

Character Building, Memoir

Character building: I just got a BRILLIANT idea (I think)

mother memory book
This is one of two memory books I am filling out for my sons. Each books asks tons of questions about the mother’s life.

I’ve always been obsessed with these memory books that are designed for parents and grandparents to fill out and leave for their progeny to remember them by. When I was a teen, I bought grandmother versions for each of my grandmas. Both of my grandmas totally filled their books out and left me all sorts of memories of them that I will treasure forever. I am lucky enough to still have my maternal grandmother, but my paternal grandmother has been gone for seven years now. I feel so close to her when I can open her book and read her handwriting.

I bought the parent versions for each of my parents a long time ago, but I don’t know if they’ve ever started to answer the questions inside. Maybe they’re still too young to worry much about whether or not they’ll be remembered when they’re gone. Continue reading “Character building: I just got a BRILLIANT idea (I think)”