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I've been writing my latest celestial novella which has been progressing despite competing real life activities.

But something has been nagging me; and I just worked out what it is. At a critical plot point, the characters are not acting characteristically. They do something at odds with their previous behaviour across the story arcs.

I think the scene as it is currently drafted is cool on its own, but in the grander scheme of things it hits a sour note.

Time for some rewrites.

Anyone else have that experience?

Palindromeman 7 July 26
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I can definitely relate to something nagging at me, then I discover a major flaw (or more likely, have to pointed out to me.) I agree with Evidentialist that the usual reason is forcing the story toward a preordained conclusion rather than (this is where authors can sound kind of woo) letting the characters guide the story. Your options are to change the characters (which sounds the least practical from how you've described where the piece stands), change how they react (which changes the story from that point forward) or change the circumstances they are reacting to.

ScottRP Level 5 July 26, 2018

Thank you. The second of those three is the most practical in the circumstances.


Any time a character does something uncharacteristic it is a sign of author forcing story. How bad that is depends on degree.

Yes, I've had that happen a few times over the years. You might not want to hear this, but the most common solution I've found is to cut the scene/set of passages/whole chapter and rethink the whole mess. There have been a couple of times when a rational way out of the dilemma presented itself, but that 'couple of times' literally is just twice.

You'll have to weigh how valuable the scene/segment is to moving the story as opposed to how much hurdle jumping you'll need to do to get this kink in character behavior straightened out so that it fits their personalities. No easy answers on this one.

Thanks for that.

The scene revolves around an event that propels the narrative into act three. I have an inkling of a fix - and one that fits the characters better - but it will require substantial redrafting. In turn I need to consider the implications for act three; not insurmountable, just some rethinking required. That's all okay if I can get consistency in character actions and keep the narrative moving forward. As you say, no easy answers.


I havent written much character driven long fiction per se but as a reader/editor Id ask: is that uncharacteristic behavior important for the way the scene played out? if it can't be corrected easily then it just needs to be explained, or implicated so a person could reason why. maybe think of a clever catalyst or motivating factor that would cause them to behave that way in this case. If you could correct one characters behavior to be more of their natural state and give another a sudden reason for the change for example, it could be a useful source of both dramatic and situational irony.

Wurlitzer Level 8 July 26, 2018

Thanks for that.

I kinda sorta have that, but somehow it doesn't feel right (specifics - in my verse, celestials don't kill mortals; it's a code. And the mortals are Very Bad People. But it then raises the question why haven't the celestials been terminating other Very Bad People in the past. It's a consistency issue which would bug me as a reader. It also darkens the tone in a way I don't like. I'll mull on it).