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Character Motivation

I’m reading a book set in the world of Darkover.  Yes, Marion has been gone for a number of years, but the series lives on, and I keep buying these “share cropped” books because I love the world so much.  There are some places that are just real — Middle Earth, Barsoom, Hogwarts, and Darkover is among these.

What’s frustrated me about this book is that the protagonist keeps making stupid decisions, and I, as the reader, know they are stupid.   When I’m reading along, and a new character arrives, and so obviously has big issues that are going to cause big problems, it makes me crazy when the hero willfully ignores all these glaring neon hints.

It’s a balancing act about giving the reader enough information so they don’t think you are just playing fast and loose and pulling a rabbit out of your hat, and making it so “on the nose” that a blind man shouldn’t miss the clues.

I’m not advocating for protagonists who never take a misstep, or don’t make mistakes, but I want the mistakes to grow logically out of character or circumstance, and I want the solution to the problems created by flaws in the hero’s character to also explicate his or her character.

I confess I skipped to the end of this book, and the problem is solved by the hero making a speech.  But nothing earlier in the book has indicated the antagonist is going to be swayed by this, and it just seemed terribly convenient.

I think this is all part of the issue of authenticity.  Is the situation something I can reasonably imagine occurring?  Do the characters behave the way real people would behave?  If those two questions are answered in the negative I don’t think a reader can commit emotionally to a story.

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