Lindsey R. Loucks

Author of Romance and Other Scary Things

Can You Pull Your Characters’ Pants Up?

So I’m back from my Christmas trip to visit my brother and his family. My parents flew out, too, and we all had a grand time. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a houseful of little children with adorable dimples, devilish grins, and unexpected (though cute) things falling out of their mouths every minute.

Here’s an example of unexpectedness from my youngest nephew: “Windsey, Windsey, Windsey! (even the letter L sounds cute!) Can you pull my pants up?” I just don’t hear that everyday. The BF is perfectly capable of pulling up his own pants, and Jesse doesn’t wear pants, at least that I know of. He does slip into my closet every once in a while, and I have no idea what he does in there.

This is not my nephew. It’s Justin Bieber, whom my niece looooooves. His pants need pulling up, too!

Anyway, pants were pulled up, and later on when I became the nephew-designated sippy cup holder, I thought about character arcs. Yes, I know it’s weird, but I can’t turn off my writer brain, and said nephew was playing with a brand new Christmas present so quietly, my brain took over.

So there I was holding his sippy cup and thinking about character arcs. My character needs to have one. She needs to come into the story with her pants down (figuratively, of course), and come out of the story with her pants up. There needs to be some sort of change within her, some sort of growth. Now all I have to do is figure out a way to do this.

First, I probably need to show that she’s capable of change through memories, dialog, and things that are important to her. Jasmine (that’s my MC’s name) runs away from her problems because of a tramautic experience in her past. By the end of the story, I need to have her running towards her problems. So far, I’ve slipped a locket and a poster into the story that are both important because her sister gave them to her. That’s about it so far, but I’m hoping that these early clues about these items will help show the reader that her sister is important to Jasmine, which hopefully will help facilitate the change.

Second, an outside force should put pressure on the MC to make/help them change. According to Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress, “… change is threatening to most people, and they won’t do it unless something drives them to it, usually pain or conflict” (201). Those would be all those boulders you throw in the way of your MC to make a good story. After all, a happy character is a boring character, in my humble opinion. Yay for me since I already know what outside forces and boulders I’ll be using!

I sure hope I can help Jasmine pull up her pants by the end of the story and make it realistic. The whole bending down thing, grasping the waistband, and pulling up isn’t as simple as it sounds.

So how about you? Can you pull your characters’ pants up?

9 Comments

  1. Oh, I certainly yanked Grace’s pants as hard as I could. You know here – little doubtful Angel – eating up the rules – doubting everything that goes against them. Well, by the end of the book, she has her own mind and accepts herself and the world for what it is. From trying to be what others want to being what she is -> that’s my character arch (and I’m sticking with that story ;))

  2. I picked up on Jasmine’s locket at the first mention of it. Knew you were going somewhere with it.

    Ugh. I wasn’t thrilled seeing JB with his pants hanging. My 7 and 8 yr olds are in love with him. I suppose I’ll tell them that it was fame and fortune that drove JB to drop his pants.

    My MC’s arc went Girls Gone Wild considering she doesn’t keep her pants on long enough to pull them up. This is something I’m revisiting in my rewrite of HE. She needs to struggle out of those pants like wet jeans or–as our mutual buddy J said–I’ll be looking to Harlequin or Ellora’s Cave for publishing.

    A happy character IS a boring character. Readers want Drama! Conflict! Struggle! I’ll be re-approaching my MC with wet sticky jeans.

  3. Can’t agree more… need to put the characters is a difficult situation – making them squirm – and then watching them get out of it… always fun

  4. My MC has to go from self-appointed public enemy #1 to (nearly) model citizen, so I think she already has a rather sweeping character arc. Trouble is, as wonderful critters like Steph and Pam keep pointing out, I need to throw many more boulders at her along the way 🙂

  5. Excellent, Stef! You have it all planned out.

    Pam – Wet, sticky jeans all the way! Almost every adult publisher publishes sex, though. Not just Harlequin and Ellora’s Cave!

    Tania – you’re right! It is always fun!

    Bot – chuck those boulders, and make sure they’re good and heavy!

  6. I have a problem with pulling up pants (figuratively). I mean when I get to the point where things need to get resolved for my characters, I can’t decide how to go about it. Do I pull the pants up one side at the time or try to do both sides at once?
    I know eventually I will have that figured out. Until then I can only enjoy the writing/revising ride.

  7. Oh, that’s a good point, Akoss! I guess it depends on the pants (and the character)!

  8. I’m terribly behind on your lovely blog. I took the night off from editing to do critiques and surf. I had a bad day. Tornadoes will do that to you.

    Anywho, yes my characters need to pull their pants up too. They’ve gotten better at it since draft one and now at draft 299, I think they’re making good progress. Jayden’s had to step it up a bit and quit moping long enough to save the day. Serenya’s had to realize that she’s got to depend on her friends and not try to fix everything herself. Definitely some firmer changes goin on that I’m liking. Except I seem to be expanding instead of cutting as I expected…hmm..

  9. Changes are a good thing. Good luck with draft 299! 😉

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