I’m sitting here holding a giant dill pickle in one hand and typing with the middle finger of my other hand. I’m not pregnant, and I’m not a woman, but I had a craving for one of those great big pickles you see at the convenience store, and I acted on that craving, which is kinda out of character for me.
Now if I was drinking a Coke, that would be in character since Coke is more of an addiction for me than a craving—I’m rarely seen without a Coke cup in my hand.
The pickle thing? I just had an urge, and hey, sometimes people do things they wouldn’t normally do, depending on the situation.
That’s the way it is with the characters in our story. They have to react to whatever situation we throw at them. But if they do something they wouldn’t normally do, I would hear, “He can’t do that. That’s out of character for him.” And those who called me on it would be right.
In our story the protagonist, Casey, is a mild mannered guy who my writing group calls a wuss. (Thanks a lot guys, considering that Casey is patterned loosely after me.) At one point Casey is forced to take action to save lives, and he reacts to the situation well, and in character. (Okay, Writing Group, next time a bad guy comes to our meeting with a machine gun, this Casey is hiding under the table until the shooting stops.)
But if our story’s Casey were to get up one morning, strip off his shirt, tie on a Rambo headband and go out with elephant guns under each arm looking for bad guys, it would be so far out of his character that we wouldn’t believe him anymore.
I can occasionally do things out of my character, but my characters can’t or they wouldn’t be believable or relatable.
Such is my goal and challenge—to create a character that readers like and can relate to, one that reacts to situations in his own way and, hopefully, in a way that we might react, ourselves, if we were bold enough, funny enough, or creative enough.
Okay, now my pickle is eaten, and I can two-finger type. I can’t imagine what made me think I’d enjoy that big, green, salty thing—which I did for the first few bites—but overall, I wish I had gotten a Milky Way.
Now that would have been in character for me.