Creating memorable characters with a go-to excuse by Lani Longshore

Over the years, I’ve read lots of books and articles about creating memorable characters. Early on, the advice focused on visualizing your character and considering how gender, height, weight, coloring, and recognizable facial markings could have affected that character’s life. Later, it became fashionable to think of fashion. What did it mean that your character wore high heels, low heels, no heels? Later still, the trend went to what your character always carries, or the one thing your character regretted losing. Good advice, all of it, but today I want to consider delving into the soul of your character. What is his or her go-to excuse to weasel out of trouble?

Try writing a scene where your protagonist is in trouble and desperate to find that get-out-of-jail-free-card. Envisioning the lies, truths, or combinations thereof that your protagonist tells will give you a good indication of whether you’re playing with a hero or anti-hero.

Now write a scene for the villain, but in this case try layering some honesty into the go-to excuse. What happens if another character, perhaps the protagonist’s best friend, recognizes some truth in the excuse being told? How will that affect the protagonist’s and side-kick’s approach to the next crisis?

Since problem-solving is at the heart of every story, it makes sense to discover how your characters will react in difficult situations sooner rather than later. Who knows, in the process you might even discover a few excuses you can trot out on that day you discover someone forgot to pay the electricity bill.

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