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”

Essays, Random Rants, Religion

Transformation is hard

Human shapes
Human shapes (Photo credit: mripp)

Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It happens slowly, day-by-day, and often over the course of months or even years. If you are trying to transform your life, you can’t allow yourself to be discouraged a day, or a week, or even several months into the process. It isn’t going to happen just because you tell it to. Your new life must slowly become a habit before it can become a real and lasting change.

Don’t waste time worrying over how far you have to go or how little you might have accomplished by today. Instead, wake up each morning and ask yourself, “What can I do today to be a better person than I was yesterday?” Maybe that means you will eat one less cookie today than you did yesterday. Maybe that means you will write five more words today than you did yesterday. Or maybe you will decide to say one less curse word or be just a little less cranky with your kids. Whatever it means for your life, just think how far you will have gone a year from now if you continue to be a little bit better each day. Continue reading “Transformation is hard”

House and Home, Parenting

Can you use positive reinforcement on yourself?

Cyberpunk Motivation
I don’t know if this image has anything to do with my blog post. But I thought it looked cool, so I’m sharing. Thanks, Zemanta. | Cyberpunk Motivation (Photo credit: Kordite)

Many years ago, when I took Psychology 101 as an undergrad, I learned a very important lesson about motivation that has always stuck with me: positive reinforcement is always far more effective than negative reinforcement. Here’s an example of that concept in practice:

I have an ancient laptop that I let my kids use for watching YouTube videos and playing online video games. My 7-year-old would spend the entire day with his eyes glued to the computer screen if I would let him. In fact, his computer usage was becoming a major problem. It got to the point where I felt like I was constantly yelling at him to get off the computer and do his chores, do his homework, go outside and play, etc. It was a never-ending battle to try to pry him away from that computer and get him to do anything else. Continue reading “Can you use positive reinforcement on yourself?”