By DiAnn Mills
Our characters can be stubborn. Just when we think we know them inside and out, they toss us a wrench. We struggle to push them into a story-line that forces them to change and grow—or slide downhill as in the case of antagonists—then they behave contrary to how we sketched them.
We work hard at shaking them inside out to ensure they are unique, memorable, and fit the plot and genre. Our goal is to achieve the proper balance of complexity in an unpredictable story.
What causes characters to spin in the opposite direction?
Sometimes the problem with our characters is not what we believe about them, but what they believe about themselves.
Lies, big and little, influence the character’s dialogue, behavior, goals, wants, careers, how they journey through our story, and a host of other attributes.
What are some of these lies? These pesky confidence-destroyers and killers of relationships, careers, views of God, and distorted truth stop our characters from reaching their full potential. These lies begin as children when life experiences and role models taint the character’s personality.
Our characters have a rich backstory that has molded and motivated them into who they are in chapter one, line one of the story. Every moment has the potential to create misconceptions about life.
For example, a character may believe:
I have no choice but to be perfect.
Life isn’t fair.
I’ll never be happy unless I have lots of money.
Everyone is out to get me.
God’s love must be earned.
Morals are a personal preference.
Relationships are 50/50. Any less and I’m outa here.
The only way for someone to love me is for me to take care of them.
See what I mean?
How characters respond and initiate action regarding their lies show who they are. You can use these additional internal issues to add stress, tension, and conflict to the story. Create situations that force characters to face their lies head-on and the story demonstrate powerful crafting.
How does a writer find the resources to help their characters out of their psychological mess? I use psychology books, consult psychologists, and research quality websites that focus on human behavior and counseling techniques.
Writers may need to stick their characters into a chair and find out how and why they are misbehaving. When we discover what prompted the character’s lies, we can establish means to get rid of them. The result is an unforgettable novel that will entertain and inspire readers.
What lies do your characters believe?
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on: Facebook, Twitter, or any of the social media platforms listed at diannmills.com