Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Would Grandpa Think?

The random question for today is what would grandpa think? This question adds internal conflict for your characters and keeps them likable during a scene where they're either behaving badly or need to make a tough decision.

Now, most of you instinctively know how your character will react to any given question, but sometimes we want our characters to surprise us. Not act out of character--just surprise us.

Let's use Monday's scenario except we'll switch the point of view from Tessa to John.
Setting: John's farmhouse, Saturday 11:00am, springtime
Players: Tessa and John
Scene Question: Will John agree to attend a wedding with Tessa?
Set up: John is anti-social and Tessa is nervous Nelly, desperate to have a date to a co-worker's wedding. And for some reason John is the only person on the planet she can ask.

So John doesn't want to go the wedding. He's gruff with her and tries to dismiss her, but she wedges her black heel into the door frame and won't be dismissed. He's getting panicky, which means he's not the nicest person. To keep John from being a complete jerk, this is a good idea to ask "What would John's grandpa think about the way he's treating Tessa?"

Hs grandpa treated his grandma like a prize rose. Now John has to let her in and hear her out. He lowers his voice, tries to find a kind way to let her down. And ultimately, he agrees to attend the wedding. Grandpa taught him right.

This works wonders at provoking a guilty conscience. You could also go the other way and have his grandpa be a worthless bum. No matter, your character will be affected by memories of him.

I realize these light questions won't cure everything, but they're a fun way to clear up confusion on how and why your character will react in a scene.

Don't you love sloshing guilt on your characters?

Join me on Friday to review and set one goal!


  1. What a wonderful way to look at that scene. That totally works for me. Thanks, Jill.

  2. I love how these questions are making me dig further into character motivation.

    Very cool.
    ~ Wendy

  3. "Don't you love sloshing guilt on your characters?" Ha! Yes!

  4. Guilting characters into behaving well?

    LOVE IT!

  5. Bless you - anything that can help me develop my characters into more complex individuals is priceless. GUILT!

  6. This is great! I love it. I'm going to try it right now with one of my characters.

  7. AMAZING! I LOVE guilt, hyperbole, all kinds of deep thinking and try to weave it in there...

    Won't be here Friday, LORD WILLING will be jetting my way to Beijing, so am taking the liberty of posting NOW.

    My goal: to honor God in china...
    journal like my hand's on fire...

  8. Grandpa would probably kick his buttocks if John mistreated a woman. Good way to look at it. :O)

  9. .."sloshing guilt...." I just love saying that! Another great idea, Jill. Thanks!

  10. Hi Jill -

    Useful and entertaining - great post!

    Susan :)

  11. Hello everyone! Thank you for letting me indulge in "grandpa guilt" today. So much fun!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Sloshing guilt on character? YES! I am all up for that. :)

  13. How lovely to see a situation from Grandpa's point of view. Of course your picture and my experience makes him a very kind man. I do like the way guilt causes the guy to be kinder. Only now he's stuck. Well, that's his problem.

  14. What a fabu question to ask!! I'm so stealing, er, borrowing this when I need my characters to feel some inner turmoil. You're brilliant!

  15. Jill:
    You just gave me something to think about for my current story. Except, I might ask,"What would Dad think?" My two main characters,a brother and sister, have inherited the family farm after their mother died. Dad's been gone a few years and the brother has to re-learn some farming ways after a job in the city.

  16. Oh, I love your thoughts! Thanks for sharing, everyone!

  17. Oh I love this! I also heard that a good way to spice up a story is to go back, switch everyone's gender, and rewrite it from that angle.


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