Better Characters through Lies, Secrets and Scars

This week I’m revisiting and improving a post I wrote in 2019. Lies, Secrets, and Scars Create Better Characters appears today on the Writers in the Storm Blog. You may remember this post but it’s been improved with examples. If you check it out on the WITS blog, please say hi. 

Image of a train coming around the mountain full of fall foliage is one kind of train that depends on rails to keep it moving like lies, secrets and scars keep your character and story moving forward.

Lies, Secrets, and Scars Create Better Characters

Many writers spend days, weeks, months, even years creating characters using complex character profile worksheets. The best characters aren’t a collection of data points on a worksheet. Depending upon data points like the genre, physical attributes, favorite desert, or what he’s wearing may disrupt story flow even to the point of what many call writer’s block. Not that those data points are unimportant, but focusing on the lies, secrets, and scars of your characters will give your stories power. That emotional journey ties everything together into a book your readers can’t put down.

The Why

Lisa Cron calls it your character’s misbelief. KM Weiland calls it your character’s lie. Brandilyn Collins calls it inner values. And Donald Maass says it’s how we get readers to make their own emotional journey. What are they talking about?

Most people have morals, values, or other belief systems that guide them in their choices. It’s the reason they choose B over A when A and B are equal. Call it an inner guidance system. Most of us don’t think about it much, it just is.

When we read a story or watch a film, we connect with characters whose inner guidance system is like ours. Choices the character makes, and the possibilities rejected by that character, fascinate us. The more we wonder, “would I have done that” and “what’s he going to do now,” the more we are hooked….

The Rest of the Story

To read more of the updated the Lies, Secrets, and Scars Create Better Characters post, go to Writers in the Storm. I hope you find it helpful.

Image Credit: Balazs Busznyak on Unsplash

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