Why Mistakes Are Good

As Creative Writers, we want everything to go perfectly in our writing. We like workable first drafts and we cut all of our mistakes in the following drafts. Things go wrong, but we try to fix them.

But some problems are unavoidable, even intentional. Imperfections are a part of the perfection of composition. We as Creative Writers want things to go wrong and be wrong. This creates a text that is both realistic and interesting.

Give Every Character A Flaw

One of the basics that my Creative Writing professor stressed was the idea that every character should be given some physical quirk. Often in class he would remark that this character or that character in some student’s story needed a physical quirk.

I remember sitting in his office discussing this point. I complained that one guy has an eye patch, and another guy has a prosthetic leg, and it sounds like I’m writing a bunch of pirate stories. He explained to me how these quirks added to the uniqueness of the character. Just as all people do not look alike, so to should our characters. He also mentioned that a quirk does not have to be some deficiency, but something particular to them.

In time I figured that the physical can illuminate the personal, the internal, and the psychological. A heart problem may tell us of a character who is heartless. Someone with arthritis may be stubborn or in some other way stiff and inflexible. A person who is double jointed can be indecisive.

But more than personality, the deep parts of our brains can be individualized with such things as personality types, but also psychological disorders or tendencies. A character who is a paranoid or a histrionic is more interesting than someone completely sane and normal.

Make Something Go Wrong

The scene is almost a cliché – the woman is chased, gets in the car, and has some problem with the keys. Either she drops them the engine won’t start. This gives the killer or monster or whomever is chaser her time to catch up and bang on the driver’s side window just as she screams and drives off.

Sure, it’s a cliché, but it works. That is why it is done so often. A good Creative Writer will try to make something go wrong in every scene. It gives the people in the scene something to do. There is a difficulty to consider and a problem to overcome. This not only puts action in your scene, but illuminates the characters. How a person act is just as important as the fact that they act.

For example, if a person is having a heart attack and calls for their child in the room to hand them their pills, you can show much by the response. If the child races to the bottle and runs crying to the father with pleas for survival, that shows us about the child differently than the one who holds on to the pills and intentionally withholds them.

Make something go wrong in every scene. It provides a chance for good action, shows what is really inside a person and their relationships, but it is also a great way to raise the tension of the story. The whole point of the middle of the story is to create tension. This is the key to a page turner and the real essence of rising action.

Life is not perfect and no one is flawless. Make sure your writing reflects this. It contributes to authentic tales and appealing stories. Give your characters quirks on the inside as well as the outside. Make something go wrong in every scene. It furthers along the characters, their associations, the actions within the plot, as well as the plot itself. Mistakes are not mistakes in Creative Writing. They are intention ways of being the best prosiers we can.

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