Would he REALLY do that?!
Last night I gobbled up another book: Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller. I have to admit that sometimes this fast-reading thing makes me feel ripped off. I pay money for a hardcover book, then within three hours, it's gone. Poof. I don't like that.
I wanted to read this book because it's set in Napa's wine country, and since I just spent some time there, I was intrigued. Plus, I like Sue Miller's family sagas. This one was a good one. I was really engaged with all the characters, and I was rapidly flipping those pages, until... one of the main characters just did something that stopped me dead. I just couldn't believe it. I kept flipping back and forth incredulously, saying, "No way." And after that, the book sort of died a little for me (this was about at the 75% mark). I just didn't believe that he (or anyone in his position) would do what he did.
I'm struggling with this a bit with my own novel in progress. I have a character who does a particular Something, and I'm having a bit of a hard time believing it mySELF. So I need to either change the character, to make him more credible, or I have to change what he does.
And I'm trying to differentiate, with the Sue Miller book: was it just that I didn't LIKE what he did, didn't AGREE with it, or I don't believe that this particular character - as I have come to know him - would do what he did. I think this is the most critical thing in fiction writing. Even if you don't like or agree with a character's actions, the most crucial thing is that it makes sense for the character. That it is IN CHARACTER.