Posted by: victanguera | March 15, 2010

Writing Prompt #151

One piece of writing advice I have run across states that you should avoid your character winding up in a bad situation because of a choice they made. The belief is that readers will lose sympathy for a character that ends up in trouble because they made a horrible decision.

But think about your own life. How many of us can truthfully say that all our decisions have been good ones? Raise your hand if you’d like a “do-over” button for at least one choice you made.

So for today’s prompt, think about bad choices your character makes. Think about ways to keep the reader sympathetic even while your character does something that we know will harm them. What are the consequences of that action? How does that action affect the character arc? What other ways do you think a poor choice could change the way a reader views your character?

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Responses

  1. Huh. What a weird idea. Everyone does stupid things, even if they know it’s stupid and they’ll get caught at it. I’d be more liable to lose any sympathy if the character never has to deal with the consequences of their own actions.

    Though it would be interesting to do a story involving do-overs and the end result of that …

  2. A character who never makes any bad decisions… is also a character that, by definition, never achieves greatness because he never climbs over any obstacles, never takes the wrong path, never leads his troops into a massacre.

    Where’s the story in that? Where would the “Odyssey” be if Odysseus had a map and a compass? Where would “Hamlet” if our good prince had gotten off the pot and stuck with a choice instead of choosing NOT to choose?

    I’d rather trust the words of my English teacher in high school: “Humans are flawed. They have consistent inconsistencies.”

    • Wow, great insight. I think I’ll print that out and post it above my computer. How a character gets out of a situation caused by a bad choice can show more about their true character.

      • I want my do-over button to be one one those big red things like Staples has.


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