Monday, January 14, 2008

Character Motivation--Part II

I watched part of an old movie this afternoon. It was called EVELYN PRENTICE from 1934 starring Myrna Loy. Storylines were given a lot of lattitude back then. I don't know if it was due to lack of viewer sophistication or just that there was nothing else on.

Please don't write me and tell me I don't understand the nuances of Miss Loy's performance or whatever. Don't care. I am basing my judgment on the few minutes of the movie when I was alert and not flipping channels. The title character, Evelyn Prentice is married to a lawyer who must defend the woman accused of a crime committed by Mrs. Prentice. I was conscious at the moment when Mrs. Prentice's friend enters the room with her husband.

The husband wasn't paying attention to what the women are talking about--at least that part was accurate. Mrs. Prentice's friend tells her about an article she read in the paper about a murder.

"They found the killer," Friend says. "Her name or something."

Mrs Prentice takes the paper and says; "No, that isn't right. It was me. I killed him."

Friend gives her a raised eyebrow.

Lawyer husband walks in and asks about the case. Friend tells hubby that she was with Mrs. Prentice all day.

That's it. She's not stunned, incredulous, fearful, anything. She just gives her a friend an alibi for killing a man and that's the end of it.

I realize it's a movie and we can't tell what the friend is thinking, but would she jump so willingly and casually to the defense of her friend without a moment to digest the news?

I also realize movie characters are much more believable these days. Women no longer put their open hand over their mouths, palms facing outward, to cover a scream--think Bette Davis. It isn't as easy to wrench a gun out of a woman's hand. Tears look real, so real sometimes I think they actually are.

As moviegoers we expect more so producers and directors have given us more. What about you? Do you consider the needs of your readers when you write? Do you realize they are going to want to know why the friend wasn't that surprised when your heroine drops a bombshell on her? They will want to know why the friend is so willing to offer an alibi. Does heroine have something on the friend? Were they both involved and afraid the other will go to the police first?

Readers want to know and if you write an unbelievable story with characters behaving out of character, they will notice.

Stay in character. Write logically. If Heroine finds out her husband is having an affair, she probably won't ask him what he wants for dinner in the next breath. If she does, he will probably have the good sense to order out.

Happy Writing


  1. Hello Teresa from Australia,
    I've just found you and I like what I see. I will be back to delve more closely into your wisdom and insight into writing with Christian principles.

  2. Thanks, Annie. If you or anyone out there has a writing subject you'd like me to touch on, let me know.