I’ve been thinking a lot about believable character motivations and emotions lately. I read a book recently that reinforced what I had been working on in my own writing.
It was a fun book- really cute idea and character voice. My issue was this: there was a really cute boy that the main character (MC) was drawn to. Problem = he was a jerk. Not just a ‘one time, maybe he was having a bad day’ kind of jerk but a serious jerk. -Including a humiliating bet-
But of course, within the space of a few pages he went from ‘Hot Jerk’ to ‘Hot Boyfriend’. Whaaat?
I didn’t buy it (or the step-sister’s turn-around) and the rest of the book I was in disbelief. I didn’t understand her motivation to trust him. I didn’t feel like she reacted like a real person.
In my own writing I had run into something similar. My MC was thrust into a situation completly different from everything she knew. Now I knew she was safe, and I knew the people who were there were nice so I had her responding slightly suspicious but accepting the explanations easily.
The editor that looked at it asked me a question that changed my approach. “Is this how a seventeen-year old girl would really react in this situtation?”
Woah. She didn’t know she was safe. That requires a different reaction entirely. Now it rings more true as a ‘real’ emotional response. The funny thing was, that as soon as I saw the question I realized if it had been someone else’s book I would of totaly responded with a ‘No way she would be doing that!’.
So, now for a question. How do we make sure that our character’s emotions and motivations are realistic? And if they aren’t what you would think of as the ‘normal’ response, how do we set it up so that is is believable to a reader?