Have you ever read a story and when a character does something, you find yourself thinking, “Okay, but why?”
This is a question you don’t want your readers to ask if you don’t have a plan how to answer it in the story. Characters should never do things just to make the story happen.
Let’s take the following example:
A man comes home from work to find that his door has been broken open and a rare book worth a million dollars has been stolen. He starts on a quest to hunt down the thieves and recover the book.
There are a couple questions that might come to mind when you read this. For example:
- Why did the man have a book worth a million dollars in his house with no special security?
- Why didn’t he call the police?
It is true that if the book was in a safety deposit box in the bank or if he called the police to track down the thieves, there would not be much of a story. However that is not a good enough reason. Readers want stories to make sense for the story setting, even when they take place in a fantasy or absurd world. Here are some possible answers that might answer these question:
- He just got the book and was going to bring it to the bank the next day
- He didn’t know it was that valuable
- The police in his town are corrupt and would just steal the book if they found it
- There is no police force since it is in a remote or lawless area
You don’t have to explain all this at the beginning but it’s good to give some hints so the reader knows that there is a logical explanation, even if they don’t know what it is yet.
TL:DR (In Summary)
Make sure that there is a logical reason for all the actions your character makes and that they are realistic for the story world.
Got a question or problem for Writing Corner? Let me know in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.