Thursday, October 27, 2011

Realistic Characters

I've been watching Terra Nova this season, because dinosaurs = yay! And I've been willing to forgive its other flaws, but since I write YA, this particular one bugged the snot out of me.

On a recent episode, a 16-year-old boy and girl were sharing their first kiss. The boy breaks away because he has a girlfriend 85 million years in the future. The girl he was kissing says (paraphrased of course), "It's okay. I still like you, and I will help you get your girlfriend here."

My immediate reaction was, "No self-respecting teenage girl whose only competition was 85 milliion years away would offer to bring that competition face to face with her."

My husband, who was watching with me, said, "Forget about the girl. No 16-year-old boy would stop kissing a pretty girl when his girlfriend was 85 million years away."

In any type of storytelling, there must not only be rich and interesting characters, but also characters that stay true to their age. For me, the scene felt more like a plot contrivance than something that would organically occur. However, I might have believed it if the couple was older. Perhaps the guy was married, and his wife was not allowed to come. For 16-year-olds, it simply didn't ring true for me.

So what do I take from this? When I'm writing, I need to strive for honest, real reactions from my characters. If an interaction doesn't feel right, perhaps that bit of business needs to occur with other people or under different circumstances. Will it always ring true for everyone? I doubt it. But it's a worthy goal.


mshatch said...

oh how true! I get so annoyed when I read something and feels out of character. Kinda ruins the story, at least for a moment.

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