Life without trust is an impossible achievement.
As I discussed in brief detail the other day here, it’s difficult to get through life without some amount of trust. In our daily life we are constantly trusting others. As authors, we ask our reader to trust our characters.
But how much, as a writer, do we trust our main characters?
This sounds a bit odd, I admit. Like they are their own beings and not figments of our imaginations. But while I usually disagree with people who say their characters take on a mind of their own, there is a hint of truth in how a fictional character battles with their creator.
After all, we are the creator in charge of their story. Even if “they” take us on a rabbit trail, that doesn’t mean the rabbit trail ends up in the finished draft. Chances are, it gets cut. It may teach us something about our character, but it may not be true to the story we are trying to tell.
So this week I’ve been thinking a lot about trust. How we trust our characters, how we ask our reader to trust them, and how our characters trust each other. Today, let’s delve into how our characters trust each other and the problems it can create.
Main Characters (MC)
With your MC in your mind, assume they were your best friend. Now consider how much you trust him/her. Do you trust him to make a large cash deposit for you? Do you trust her to not cheat on her boyfriend? Do you trust him to tell you the truth? Do you trust her with your life? Do you trust her to return stolen or misplaced property–what about if she knows she would never get caught?
What would it take to make your MC lie? Conversely, what would it take to make your MC tell the truth?
This may seem like a pointless exercise with just a lot of questions, but hang in there with me.
Minor Characters (mC)
Now keeping your main character in the back of your mind, bring in some of your minor characters.
How much do they trust your MC? Ask the same questions of them: would they trust the MC to make a cash deposit for them? Would they trust her not to cheat on him? Etc.
Now, ask yourself if these answers are correct. In other words, does the mC interpret the MC correctly? Is the mC putting the correct amount of trust in the MC, or is the MC actually worthy of more trust? How can this be worked to your advantage and create more conflict in your novel?
Look at it from the other side–does the MC trust the mC? Should they? Do they put a small amount of trust in the mC, but not the amount the mC deserves? Has the mC earned more trust than the MC is willing to give?
Friends & Enemies
Trust is crucial between friends and even enemies. I would trust some of my friends to watch my son as I instruct them to. I would not trust an “enemy” to do so. But…some of my family members don’t have that trust of mine.
Why care about trust?
Trusting the wrong person can have all sorts of consequences. They can tell other people whatever you don’t want them to know. They can use their intimate knowledge of you to hurt you, physically or emotionally.
But trusting the right person also has consequences. When have you trusted a spouse or a friend who then opened their mouth at the wrong time and betrayed a confidence? These are, perhaps, the most powerful of betrayals, despite their innocence.
People are not naturally trustworthy, and trust is something that is earned over time, not given.
A writer must know their characters better than they know anyone else in the world.
Are they trustworthy? In big and little things? This is one of many personal attributes that can drive the plot of a novel or create multiple conflicts throughout your novel.
This is one of those little details that can make or break your novel. If your characters begin to act out of character, then your reader will be sucked out of the novel.
If a trusting character fails to trust someone for no reason, then it may be that the author is starting to intrude.
But every once in awhile, just as in real life, a character may act atypically. A usually placid character may erupt and lash out at others. But in fiction, this character will need a valid reason for doing so. In real life,