Is My Character Finished?
by Joe Torres
This is a tough question. Well, it’s not a tough question, as much as it’s a tough answer.
At first you think, yeah, the character is finished.
But then I happen to be thinking about lunch, and I consider the things that motivate me to decide on where to eat. I don’t like tomatoes or tomato sauce, so pizza is normally out. As well as most Italian food. Then I think about the fact that it’s not just a preference, but really a necessity that I avoid tomato sauce, because it gives me heartburn. So I often will choose a restaurant based on that fact.
Next question – what happens once I get to the restaurant? What kind of soft drink will I order? Do I choose Dr Pepper – or Mr. Pibb, cause “it’s the same thing”? (No, it’s not, by the way.) Then I look at the menu and immediately discount the things I might be allergic to. Anything with almonds. Or that I don’t like, like bleu cheese…ugh! Let’s be realistic – it’s just moldy cheese.
So the thought occurs to me, while I’m settling on the Reuben eggrolls, that all of these factors and experiences have gone into deciding I’m having for lunch. Such a relatively small decision impacted by so many aspects. So imagine the things that influence your decisions about life’s big and difficult scenarios. Even so, I at least have my own experiences on which to base such decisions – large or small.
But when I’m writing a character, how can I possibly know how they would react to any of the scenarios I have planned for them unless I take the time to develop that character’s backstory and life?
What kind of burrito would Patrick Lincoln order?
Would Detective Ryan tend to wear sporty or flowery button-down shirts to work?
Does Annie like pizza? I don’t, so why would she? Cause she’s not me – she’s her own, albeit fictional, person.
So whether I answer these questions beforehand or as I go along developing my characters, I definitely need to think about what motivates them to make the decisions they make.
Joe Torres writes sci-fi adventure with heart. He is currently working on his first novel, Force of Nature. Joe lives in Gilbert, Ariz., with his wife and either the most amazing child on the planet or a demon from the depths of hell, depending on which side of nap time you find yourself.