Acting Out of Character

Your Free Weekly Targeted Exercise from Bardsy's Publishability Index

PI Element: CHARACTER / PI Dimension: CONSISTENCY

We've all heard "actions speak louder than words." Authors use characters' behaviors to shape them. Once a character seems solid and well-defined, watching them act in opposition to their set traits triggers us to pay attention. What's happening? Why are they behaving that way? What should we discover?

When a story's protagonist (or a supporting character) behaves in a way that is inconsistent with their previous conduct, this can signal something important to the reader. Perhaps it indicates a shift in the character's emotional state or perspective, or the way the character is struggling to deal with a challenging situation, or a turning point in a relationship pushed to its limits. The impact of a character doing something uncharacteristic lies in contrast, who the character has been versus who the character is now. The key is to first have a strong, well-defined character; then we can see what it means when the character can no longer be who they have been.

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