A writer friend, Cindy Handler, asks: “A few posts back [Writing Tip #3: Use a Monkeywrench] you mentioned that you like to give your characters a trait that goes counter to their basic nature and makes it harder for them to get what they want (if I understand correctly). Could you give an example? The main character in my novel is so controlling that it works both for and against her, but I don’t think that’s the same thing.”
So here’s an example. In my novel-in-progress there’s a 17-year-old tattooed, pierced, tough kid named Michelle who’s in trouble for stealing. But she steals books. She loves to read; libraries became a refuge when her home life was in chaos. And her love of reading gives me access to a more interesting inner life for her.
I don’t mean, necessarily, that this kind of contradiction makes it harder for characters to get what they want, only that by working against type I can deepen and expand who they are. I find, especially at the beginning, that the more complexity I add, the more my characters surprise and intrigue me and the more I have to say about them.
Cindy adds, “And the more real it makes them seem, because real people are full of contradictions.”