My characters get very cranky when I try to make them do things because of plot. Worse than rebellious teens. They will mess things up just to get back at me. They will lead me in all the wrong directions. Solution: you need to give characters real motivations for what they do, say, think.
Too many formulas tell you to have your characters do things at specific places in the novel in order to follow a certain plot strategy. That can’t work for me.
You tell a character she has to act a certain way on page 33 because 3 is a lucky number, and if you have two 3’s well, double the luck, and you’ll for sure write a bestseller according to some advice.
Your character says “I wouldn’t act that way.”
You say, “I need you to because I’ve been told you need that need on page 33.”
So after some argument she does. Then she falls into an identity crisis. She becomes a bad actress. Then she acts out or shuts down. This has a domino effect on your other characters in the story. They lose sight of their motivations.
Your characters aren’t going to seem real because they’re doing the wrong things at the wrong time and your story is going to seem forced because it goes in the wrong direction at several turns and pretty soon you’re lost in the swamp.
You know where I’m going with this.
It’s not a pretty ending.
Work on plot, always. Story is important. But be true to your characters. Give them clear motivations. Readers will read even if they’re reading about terrible characters doing terrible things if the readers feel like they know and feel why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Try to figure out what your character wants in a scene and why they want it and then put something in their way and be true to the character. If you can get these right you will have plot and character working together and you will pull the character in.
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