Tuesday tips is a category of posts here at Writerly Life promises to offer concrete tips for improving or kickstarting your writing. The tips that fall into this category are the sorts that you can do today or even right now.
This week’s tip is:
Make Your Character Do Something You’re Ashamed Of
We’re so eager to make our characters seem normal, or just like us. We want them to be likable, to be relatable, to be understandable. We don’t let our favorite characters make the difficult choices, the ones that we would never do ourselves.
The result is a character that is safe, ordinary, and ultimately forgettable.
The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to become your character in real life. In fact, you don’t even have to be friends with your character or think he or she is “cool”. You only have to understand your character. So to make memorable writing, you’ve got to let your character screw up. You’ve got to let him drop out of school, or let her make that bad career move. You’ve got to let things get messy.
After all, it’s not like you have to live with the consequences yourself! Stop confusing yourself with your creation! Just because your character does something mean and ugly doesn’t make you mean and ugly as a person. You’ve got to push the tension in your story by making your character do those ugly things, the things you’d shudder to do. In real life, people do mean things all the time — those mean actions just aren’t drawn as sharply in relief. So by being bolder, and pushing your character a little farther, you’ll actually be more faithful to reality.