Make Up Your Mind Already

Don’t you just hate it when you are waiting in the mile long drive thru line and the person in front of you just can’t seem to decide what they want? Maybe, you are more patient than me, but with four kids in the car I tend to believe in drive thrus for speed. That ‘s the whole point. One time I had the driver in front of me decide they didn’t want to be in the drive thru at all. They rearranged my fender while backing out. Indecision has a cost, mine was the cost of an insurance deductible that day.

Indecision is a focal point of our world. We have polls to see how people will vote or what products they like best. We watch trends because people change their minds.

As much as I criticize the customer who couldn’t figure out what to order at the drive thru, sometimes my husband and I neither one can decide where to go out for dinner. We both want the other one to pick. So maybe making decisions is peskier than I gave that customer credit for.

At some point, we do need to make up our minds. The Bible says in James 1:8, “A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways.” I guess we just need to make decisions and be confident in what we decide.

So what does this say about our characters in novels? Readers don’t love the yo-yo of characters swaying back and forth over what to do. Dithering makes me cringe. The whole mind wrapped around the question, he loves me, he loves me not. By the time I’m done with some novels, I do not care who loves who anymore. I just want the indecision to be over.

How do you please those pesky readers like me who hate dithering?

*Make the stakes high. If a character is indecisive about something, make sure the stakes are higher than just a simple opinion. That it can’t simply be solved by talking to someone. That their indecision isn’t entirely based on a misunderstanding. That there are facts to be weighed in making the decision.

Point of Indecision:  Terry wants to go to her brother’s wedding, but it means loosing an opportunity for Olympic trials.

Stakes Are High:  Brother’s Approval and Showing Love vs. Achieving a life-long dream.

Pros/Cons:  You are able to find several pros and cons to the situation. If they are landing on a decision and new facts come in, like there are two open spots on the team instead of one.

*Avoid He Loves Me/He Loves Me Not. We can only spend so much time in a character’s head worried about two people’s feelings. There has to be external conflict as well. Here is how you could blend the two to make it work:

Internal Conflict:  He Loves Me/He Loves Me Not

Blended Conflict:  He Loves Me, but I can’t marry him because I can’t ask him to take on my teenage brother. Does he love me that much? Or my teenage brother can’t stand him, so how can we make it work?

How do you help your characters deal with indecision in a way that doesn’t annoy readers?

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About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

8 thoughts on “Make Up Your Mind Already

  1. First off, I make sure my characters don’t annoy me. Great post today, Michelle!

    • Michelle Lim says:

      It’s amazing how many authors forget to check that their characters don’t annoy them. Either that, or they are way more patient than I. I’ve made that mistake before, too. Glad you liked the post.

  2. I make sure they aren’t trying to decide where to eat. lol. I like to have them make a decision and then it turns out to be the wrong decision.
    On another note, I hate for character to keep reminding me they have to make a decision. I’m, like, make a choice!

  3. On! Great post. One I will refer back to.

  4. Michelle Lim says:

    Glad the post was helpful!

  5. bethkvogt says:

    I think this is what Rachel Hauck calls “when a story starts feeling circular,” i.e. you keep circling back to the same problem with your character over and over again . . . should he love her or shouldn’t he . . .that’s all you’ve got for the whole book.
    The main problem is … that’s all the problem you’ve given your character. You have to deepen the plotline. There is always more going on in a real person’s life than “should I love this person or shouldn’t I?” (unless you’re a teenager) — so make sure your character is living a well-rounded life with more than one problem to deal with.

  6. Michelle Lim says:

    Fantastic advice, Beth! Circular stories make me crazy.

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