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Bob Nailor




Sabotaging Character Believability

There is more to writing than just making sure how your character appears flawless with great descriptions and snappy dialog. Read the following three small passages and see if you can figure out the problem with your character.

     Example #1:
     Jeff placed a foot in the stirrup and lifted himself onto the horse’s back.
     "Are you leaving already?" Becky whined.
     Three quick steps and he embraced her once again.
     "Should I really leave?" Jeff whispered.

     Example #2:
     Grabbing the broadsword with both hands he glared at the on-coming dwarf. The princess had to be defended. His left hand gently pushed the princess behind him for protection as he lunged with the sword held tightly between his hands.

     Example #3:
     Brad nodded then winked, his bright blue eyes glistened in the sunlight.
     "Do you think we should do this?" Henry asked. "This is going to hurt."
     "Just put your back into it and we should be okay," Brad replied. He placed a shoulder against the large, abrasive stone, pushed and winced. Tears flowed from his dark eyes. "It just has to work," Brad grunted.

The above are subtle errors. What were they?

Example #1: If your character is on a horse, exactly how does he do three quick steps? Does he float through the air? Always know where your character is.

Example #2: How many hands does the swordsman have, assuming him to be human? If he is holding the sword with two hands he can't use another to protect the princess.

Example #3: Brad has what color eyes? Bright blue? Remember the wink? So later on can they really be dark?

You have to be an actor. When you write a scene, step through the dialog, the actions and the emotions. You'll quickly realize any impossibilities. If he is on a horse, he can't walk. If she is scared out of her wits, I'm pretty sure she won't be running willy-nilly around a musty basement of a deserted, haunted house. How I would love to make a comment about those who write … shall we say exotic erotica? Let me put it this way; I was in the Navy for five years and read novels like J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but many of my shipmates actually read other literature while out at sea and I would hear them say something to the effect of "No frigging way could they do that!" or "That's a total physical impossibility in that position." Permitting such actions to happen allows your believable character to fall on his or her face in your reader's eyes. The more real your characters are in the reader's mind, the more believable they become. Any instance that makes the reader stop and think or falters their thought process, you lose that reader. They have dropped out of the world you've created.

Remember, actors don't change personas, features, personalities and traits in the blink of an eye unless they are putting in contact lens, wearing a wig, or are mildly schizophrenic.

You'd best be acting out that scene; making sure that even if your character is a contortionist, is that position remotely feasible? If you drop a reader out of your created world, THEY REMEMBER!

Paraphrasing Victor Melling [Michael Cain] from "Miss Congeniality" who said: You *wear* the crown, *be* the crown, you *are* the crown!

You *think* like the character, *act* like the character – *be* the character.



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