Every Monday, MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR focuses on the art and craft of writing, from Shannon’s perspective or that of guest authors. To catch up on all posts, check out the MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR portion of the website! This week features Shannon’s thoughts on why character consistency – even when a deep mystery – is key to any tale.
A couple of weeks ago, I was on a panel for an author’s luncheon. There, I was asked how I define the importance of “mystery of character”.
My response focused on the idea that I prefer that characters not be easy to guess at. While archetypes and stereotypes can help the readers achieve some sense of familiarity, to me that also runs the risk of being predictable. I prefer to write multi-faceted, flawed characters, that sometimes can leave the reader guessing of their true intentions. In real life, people aren’t always easy to figure out, and as much as reasonable I like writing about characters that are similar.
However, I must make clear this is not the idea of making a character behave inconsistent just to suit plot needs. Any changes in attitude must be justified. Perhaps the character only acted a certain way for a while in order to mislead people to gain trust to learn the truth, and after that a true nature is apparent. I’ve not written a story of this nature, but changes in personality and attitude might underlie some psychological trauma that is key to the character. In short, even what appears as surface inconsistency must still have a solid reason and purpose.
Until next time!