What will your character do when faced with questionable scenarios? Will they call their mother just to say hi or only when forced to once a day on Mother’s Day? Will they tell the clerk at the store that they were given too much change or just walk away a dollar richer?
The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about who characters are and what they value. What they believe in – g-d, country, greed, etc. – for better or worse will inform the decisions they make and how they should behave throughout the story.
Jane only speaks to her mother once a year on Mother’s Day. What will Jane do when her mother shows up on her doorstep one random morning and declares she’s moving in?
Jane isn’t just going to roll out the red carpet, hand her mother a cup of coffee and the keys to the house.
But what if she did? What if Jane acted completely out of character? Can there ever be a case for that? Yes, but it can’t be without a lot of discussion and introspection.
When your character behaves in a way that is opposed to the moral code that you’ve established for them, you need to give them a solid reason. Or, alternatively, you can use that as a springboard to a larger issue.
Joe watched James as he stormed off, slamming doors in his wake. Joe didn’t know what to make of his brother’s behavior. Where was the James that barely spoke above a whisper? The brother who stopped to give panhandlers crisp dollar bills or went and shoveled the neighbor’s walkway after a snowstorm just because?
Obviously there’s something going on with James and as the story unfolds, you, as the writer, need to explore, explain and build James’ character so that his actions make sense.
Your Assignment: Think about the essence of your character’s moral code. How do they behave with their family? With random strangers? How can you show through your character’s actions and interactions what they value? Are there any circumstances under which they will abandon their personal moral code? Can you use this to deep your story?