Know Your Character
One thing that I can’t stress enough is keeping a character true to their nature. In other words, it’s a huge let-down and frustrating as hell when an author allows their character to act out of character. Did that make sense? LMAO 😆
Billy is a smoker, and when he’s depressed, he likes to go downtown to hang at the local pub to drown his sorrows in a glass of Scotch while smoking his brains out. Billy is also in his mid-fifties, in reasonably good health, considering his bad habits, and he has a somewhat sour disposition. He’s a contractor and has worked in various fields and alongside construction guys for over thirty years. He’s made his money and has a beautiful home, wife, and a couple of grown sons…
Now, as I’m sure you’re probably aware or at least you can surmise, this guy doesn’t necessarily have a lot of finesse. He’s a bit rough around the edges, and he’s the type of man who can appreciate hard work.
If Billy has been this type of character from the beginning, the odds he’ll change are reasonably low, depending on what happens to him during his journey (plot). I’m not saying a character can't evolve into someone slightly different. But, their basic habits and personality traits should stay intact unless something extraordinary happens. For instance, Billy gets zapped by kryptonite and becomes Superman’s archenemy. Which, in reality, wouldn’t happen. Do you get my point?
To maintain plot integrity and the suspension of disbelief, the author needs to know their characters inside and out. That means background, hobbies, occupation, and so on, and to adhere to who they’ve created. Readers have certain expectations of a character, and when the author purposely changes him or her without legitimate justification, that’s not cool. Ultimately, if the author writes like this, there’s a good chance they can lose their readership.
If Jack Reacher suddenly turned hippie-dippy, smoked ganja and was sitting around singing kumbayah with a bunch of Woodstock wannabees, I’d be upset. That is not the image I have in my mind of Jack Reacher. He is an intelligent tough SOB with a penchant for justice, and I expect him to stay that way right to the bitter end.
Remember, I’m not saying a character can’t develop, but I am saying take care of how he or she does develop. Always strive to maintain the character's core, protect who they are.