Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Organic Means It's Better For You!

Mom threw her back out (by sneezing!) and was in a lot of pain so I suggested she not go to work. Unfortunately she's already used all her sick days this year and if she used another, she'd lose pay.

I remembered something she'd said before, that she still had family sick days left. (Meaning she can take time off to care for my sister and I.) I used logic and since she won't lie (she teaches me good ethics though considering I want to make stories up for a living, which is basically glorified lying, I'm not sure it's working) I explained what I thought she should do: take a family sick day because if you lose pay it'll negatively affect your family, so if you say you need a family sick day your actually being entirely honest.

Mom didn't say anything for a moment and then replied, "You are devious."

She didn't take me up on my logic but she certainly made me think. To me, my statement seemed logical, a way to navigate the situation to keep the words truthful but still get what I want/what's best for my mom. To her, it was devious.

Now I'm not going to claim that I'm completely unaware of my own cunning nature but it really isn't something I think about.

Our characters don't either.

They can be aware of their own personality traits and major flaws but it can still sneak up on them. They can still be surprised when something that makes perfect sense to them seems wrong or strange to others - this makes for some great organic conflict between characters.

Their own flaws and nature can also be used to naturally land them in unsavory situations that they'll have to slog to get out of. For example, my main character can be insatiably curious when she wants answers, she'll do whatever she can do get them, even if she knows it could get her killed. (Yeah, I don't think it's that brilliant either.) But she's not thinking about how curious she is and how badly she wants those answers because of that, to her, it's logic - she wants to understand what's happening and the best way to do that is to press any advantage she can find.

To our characters, all of their actions are logical - even the seemingly illogical ones. They may confound others but to them they are only doing what makes sense. And events that unfold organically because of our characters are so much more fun than blatant, glaring plot devices.

Are you using your characters traits, good and bad, to their full advantage? Any thoughts?

Also, do you love my title or what? Personally, I think it's a stroke of genius.


  1. Yes, I love your title.

    Great post; it’s certainly got me thinking.
    The enigmatic, masked blogger

  2. it is a wonderful title- and a wonderful post! very true! i love when two people (characters) look at the same situation and react two completely different- but natural to them- ways!

  3. I love this post (and the title:)). I've always been told that I'm devious. I kind of like that (and I PROMISE that I try to use my powers only for good!)

    I enjoy characters whose flaws are used to their fullest potential. That maeks for interesting conflict AND better character development throughout that story.


  4. Love the title :) and the post. I debate a lot with my writing buddy when I get stuck about my characters' choices. I think a lot of times we get stuck because we force our characters to do something that isn't what their personality would. Such a great post! I hope your mom feels better soon :)

  5. Oooh, I love this! I'm trying to figure out if my characters are too aware of being illogical or not...definitely great food for thought! Hope your mom feels better soon!

  6. bahaha! That cracked me up because it was totally a rational thought!

    I need to dig deeper with one of my characters, I know it. But I love this way of thinking about them!

  7. Funny! You ARE devious. ;)

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  8. I don't think you were being devious at all ... but I guess that just shows that I'm less moral or ethical.

    Anyway, great post. I agree that organic means it's better for you -- loved the title.

  9. The title is genius. :-)
    I am also a great crafter of words that sit on a very fine line between truth and lie, so what you were saying was perfectly logical to me.
    For some reason, the characters in my stories seem very real to me. I instantly see their flaws and the good things about them. Writing that into the manuscript is a totally different matter...still working on it.

  10. hahahah fabulous post and fabulous title !!!

  11. You ARE devious! I love it!! It was a great suggestion.

    I love using my characters strengths as flaws. Eva is stubborn to a fault. While her stubborn nature helps her stick with her goal, it also gets her into trouble on more than one occasion (almost costing her everything at one point). GREAT post! I love the way you effortlessly relate situations in your real to your writing. So clever.

  12. My MC has the terrible habit of refusing to acknowledge how much power she does have - and it ends up hurting people.

    She's really gotta break that habit.

  13. OK, I've decided I don't want you ever...ever...speaking to my kids. They've both mastered the brute force and war of attrition methods of bypassing any rules we try to impose. I do not want them learning deviousness too ;)

    So true about characters though.

  14. Fabulous post! I'd never thought about this consciously, though I think as writers we do it subconsciously all the time. I describe it as my characters "surprising me" when they're really becoming self-aware. Very cool!

  15. Great post. My family always calls me when they need a justification for something - I haven't decided if that's good or bad.

  16. Such fantastic points about how characters think they're being logical even when they totally aren't. And yes, I love the title. Clever you! :)

  17. Ooh, this is so, so smart. I loved the connection you made between your mom and character developments. Made perfect sense to me!

  18. What a great post, this is a really clever approach to take to the subject. Thanks so much--you've really got me thinking about my characters as I outline my next work.

  19. Great title - and great post! You've really got me thinking in a different way about how my characters will behave and react.

  20. My, moving into the realm of giving advice now...how bold. Still, very solid advice and if anyone could give advice on making characters feel real and 'organic' then it's you. I like how you worked the personal story into it as a preface, made for a very smooth flow into your topic. Oh and the title, was amusing, though certainly no cause to give up your day job :p


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