I have a story where I want to make realistic characters, so I was thinking of making them act out-of-character at times, but I am not sure if that would lead to inconsistency, and how to do that while ensuring they won't make my readers feel mad or frustrated.

I was told that human beings are complex, but that doesn't mean they should necessarily be inconsistent, and that inconsistency within a character can be very interesting and complicated, but that you have to be careful about how you do it so that it still makes sense or that you'll end up annoying the reader.

So because you don't want characters to be archetypes that are super-simple, you should maybe add inconsistencies, but how do you do that so that it makes sense and that it doesn't end up annoying your readers?

1 Answer 1


It's important to do this the right way around. Don't make characters behave inconsistently in the hope of making them seem more complex. Instead make them more complex by giving them conflicting motivations and goals. The inner conflict that this causes can then result in inconsistent behavior (or hesitance, or manifest in other interesting way).

For example, a character might have a desire to lose weight, but also a desire to eat delicious food. Which desire wins out depends on the circumstances and chance. Sometimes they resist that cupcake because weight-loss is at the front of their mind, and sometimes they don't because it just looks too delicious.

But you can also show such inner conflict without the character behaving inconsistent. Maybe they very consistently resist that cupcake, but they agonize over it, stare at, drool over it, distract themselves to forget about it, etc.

In any case, very few people want to read about characters that just behave randomly. Characters need to have motivated behavior, so they make sense. So if you want to make them occasionally act inconsistent, give them a reason to.

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