Wednesday, July 13

Bad-Bad Decisions

Christi touched on character on Monday. I'm going to expand on that a bit, because those TSTL moments are horrendous, but in some cases they are less annoying than simple bad decisions. They're the same you say? Not necessarily.

A bad decision can be anything from taking the wrong job to making a wrong turn that lands you in the middle of a bad part of town. With a flat tire. Bad decisions happen. In books, though, there are things that I call Bad-Bad Decisions - decisions that don't make sense for the character to make. No, I'm not talking about the stiletto-wear-idiot who goes into a dark attic after hearing a noise when she knows a killer is on the loose. That is a TSTL moment.

I'm talking about the character who is a buttoned-up-brain who, in the middle of a book, decides to get a tattoo in the middle of his forehead. For no reason. All of a sudden that suit is shucking the shirt and tie for biker wear and a tattoo. That makes me throw the book at the wall. I finished a book very recently where one of the main characters, a memo-writing, calendar-obsessive, everything-has-its-place suit had a one night stand. No reason. No motivating factors. Just had a one-nighter..which, of course, put the two characters on a road of discovery. BUT, for the rest of the book, the character was lost to me. He never addressed why he acted out of character; it was never explained and I couldn't reconcile that one decision, it didn't make sense. I wanted to like the character, but that one bad-bad, out of character, for-no-reason decision made me nuts.

Now, do one nighters happen in real life? Yes. Do strict, have to have a list people sometimes act out of character like that? Yes. But they have reasons for doing the things they do. Just as our characters need to have reasons. For me, the action for the sake of action decisions are bad-bad..they take me out of the story and it's only rarely that I ever recapture the magic of that story.

10 comments:

  1. Good post! I've seen that happen so often in movies and television shows, when a person takes a giant step outside of character and you spend the rest of the show saying, "What the hell..."

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  4. It does kind of jar one out of the story. The thing is, I'm an author and an editor (for different presses) and I notice those kinds of things when I edit, so I often wonder what the editor was thinking to not question the author from making such a mistake. As an author, when my editor notices inconsistencies like that, I break my back to fix the problem. Even if the explanation from the character is an acknowledgment of doing something out of character and not knowing what got into him/her is better than no explanation at all.

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  5. I'm impressed, Kristi, you finished the book. If I'm jarred out of a story for character inconsistencies, I will probably put it aside unless it's got some unbelievable exciting plot thing going on.

    Great post!

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  6. Yeah, Liz, movies and TV seem to rely on this. A lot.

    Kay, you're right - a little explanation goes a long way.

    Margie, it took a long time. I'd pick it up, not get into it, put it down. Repeat. I think I was hoping for the explanation that Kay mentioned...but it never came. :(

    Thanks for stopping in today, ladies!

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  7. Hey, there.
    I completely agree. I can live with a stupid decision--if it's well enough motivated. But I cant' live with stupid stuff for stupid stuff's sake.

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  8. In a book I read recently, the first words out of the mouth of the heroine who was supposed to be a contact for the hero. "I'll work with you but there won't be any s***ing.The heroine lost her fiancee just a few months before. The hero said, I'm asking you to work with me not f**k me. Before the night was over they were doing just that and continued for the rest of the book. Talk about inconsistencies. Sex scenes at every opportunity take away from the story unless it is supposed to be erotica. Another thing is frequent F-bombs.Here or there, okay. But when they are so frequent in the H/H's thought and speech they become intrusive. A heroine with a potty mouth is not as appealing as a hero. Don't know why, but I lost any respect for the heroine. And the writer is a good writer, but she didn't create a sympathetic character.

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  9. I can deal with one stupid mistake, but when the book is riddled with them, that's when I have to put it down.

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  10. Hmm - I agree with you in principle, but I don't agree with your example of the hook up. I think everyone, no matter how buttoned up - gets a pass and tries a one night stand just once.....

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