DON'T MISS THE MARK ON CHARACTERS' PROFICIENCY


I couldn't find a picture of recreational gun-

shooting on Unsplash, so we have this picture instead. 😁



I'm finally officially out of my old house and into my new one (hence the lack of posts for a few days). I've concluded that, among other things, moving involves a lot of saying "ouch" for reasons you'd never expect, such as tripping over the most random objects or bruising yourself in high-contact places. Or maybe that's just me. 🙄


Also, who made shower-curtain rods so doggone difficult to put up? Or at least to put up in such a way that they stay up? I think between the bathrooms of two different houses, I've had a rod fall down at least three times in the last five days!


On Saturday, after we got everything unloaded at my new place, my new landlord and landlady invited me to go shooting with them. I'd never fired anything more powerful than a Nerf gun, so I was excited to try it.


Some things come naturally to me. Shooting, I discovered, is not one of them.


I shot several handguns, though I can't remember all the names or sizes. But in the entire afternoon, I think I only hit the target twice, and that was with a .22 rifle. Maybe all those years of playing Davy Crockett as a kid finally paid off. 😁 Granted, we were also probably thirty yards or more from the targets, so that might have had something to do with my lack of accuracy.


This reminded me of what's often referred to as a Mary Sue/Marty Stu character. While the precise meaning of the term is a matter of debate, one of many complaints lodged against this type of character is that they often learn new skills implausibly fast and well, such as Rey does in the most recent Star Wars trilogy. 


Having experienced firsthand the difficulty of marksmanship, I understand better now why this trait annoys audiences so much. Unless our readers happen to be prodigies in everything they've ever tried, they know that specialized skills like marksmanship, swordsmanship, skiing, woodworking, chess, or whatever aren't easy. They take work, practice, and lots of mistakes to master. So when a character with no prior experience hits a bullseye with their first arrow, it ruins the audience's suspension of disbelief. It may even feel insulting to someone who's had to struggle and work for a long time to get the same result. 


So make your characters earn their proficiency. Don't just give it to them for free. There's no satisfaction (for us or for our readers) in that.


Write on,

Candice


P.S. What are you struggling the most with in your writing right now? Let me know in the comments so I can give some tips about it in future posts!


(Thanks to Niklas Tidbury for sharing their work on Unsplash.)

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