Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writing for the Faint of Heart: Real Life Stressors and Your Character

 Another way to make your characters life-like? Add stress. You know, good old-fashioned everyday stresses resulting from bills, kids, meals, shopping, school, relationships. Think of these things: A flat tire, keys locked in the car, kids screaming, dog barking, boss yelling. . .!! We all know what it’s like to have a bad day, it paints your entire mind-set in shades of gray. Don’t forget this when writing in POV. If you’ve gone to great pains to give your character a “real” life, make sure to show life stressors that affect their mood and interactions with other characters. Adding these in are good ways to build conflict between characters.

As you write, ask yourself, what kind of day is my character having? What is their mindset as this plot point begins to unfold? 

For example. If someone has just attended the funeral of a close friend, in the next scene or interaction with other characters they are not going to be excited and on top of the world, they are going to be introspective and maybe a little quieter than normal. To a chatty work acquaintance who greets you, your response might be quieter than normal. Your chatty friend might just think you’re angry with her and now she’s worried that you’ve heard the bit of gossip she has shared with others about you. Instant conflict!

Last of all, a character’s mindset needs to be consistent with the character’s personality in order to be believable. An optimistic person will not necessarily take everyday frustrations as badly as a pessimist, and to show otherwise might make them look more moody than you’d like.

That wraps up POV for now! Happy writing and if you have any questions, feel free to post them in comments. 

Writing for the Faint of Heart: How to Stay in POV Part 1
Writing for the Faint of Heart: POV Part 2
Writing for the Faint of Heart: POV Part 3
Writing for the Faint of Heart: Real Life Stressors and Your Character Part 4

S. Dionne Moore is a three time Carol Award finalist for her books, Polly Dent Loses Grip (cozy mystery), Promise of Tomorrow and Promise of Time (both found in Promise Brides). She resides in the rolling hills of the Cumberland Valley in South Central PA.


  1. Ooh - I like this! Too often I perceive my heroine as above the trials of everyday life. Perhaps it's wishful thinking - who knows? Great article, Sandra!

    ~Nancy Jill Thames
    Author of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries

  2. This is great advice. It definitely makes the character more three dimensional to the reader.

    Erin Unger
    Heir of the Golden Stag

  3. Glad you fund ithelpful, Erin. Thanks for stopping in for a visit!

  4. Thanks for this reminder, friend! I'm struggling with a scene right now, and his mood may be the ticket I need to enhance the scene!

  5. Hey, Lisa! Thanks for stopping in. Glad it was a help!