L. liked to tell people everything. J. said we should teach her a lesson. We made stories about ourselves and told them to her. She repeated them, and she was livid when she found out the truth. She didn’t speak to us for a few weeks.
Seven months later, L. said to me, “D’s such a gossip. We should make a story up and tell him.”
“And you think that’s okay?” I asked, still feeling guilty for making her cry 7 months earlier. “You think we should lie to a friend to see if he’ll talk about us?”
“It’ll be funny,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, L.” I said. “D. might get upset. You know?” She let the subject go. Or so I thought.
A few months later we back on campus from summer vacation. I noticed that certain friends were looking at me strangely. Well, that is, every time I talked to one of my male friends, I’d have to check to see if I’d spilled something down the front of my blouse.
L. did make up a story to tell D. She told him I’d had breast implants over the summer.
Another time L and I were going on a double-date. Before the guys picked us up and told her all the things she shouldn’t tell my date about me. (The breast implant story being on the list of course. Never you mind the rest.) In the middle of dinner, L. said to my date, “Marta gave me a list of things I can’t talk about.”
“L!” I said.
“You don’t say there’s a list.”
“You didn’t say that. The list wasn’t on the list.”
“The list is understood!” I said.
She turned to my date. “What do you think? Is the list understood or does the list have to be on the list?”
The guys exchanged looks and changed the subject. L. and I continued the argument in the bathroom.
In fiction, characters need to behave in believable ways. But yet you don’t want them to be predictable. Well, predictable in some ways, but able to surprise and interest you in others. You don’t expect Ahab to suddenly say, “You know, why don’t I forget this whale for a day and go on a picnic?”
Or Miss Havisham to decide to go out for a coffee with her old bridesmaids?
Or James Bond to ask a beautiful, willing female to play Scrabble and discuss his stamp collection?
Who knows what novels those would be.
How do you make a character who is surprising but doesn’t break the spell of the story?