Hello, writers. Lately in my reading it seems like I keep running into characters who are, if not too stupid to live, at least too stupid to have steady jobs in the fiction industry.

An example I ran into recently was a protagonist who had, in her possession, a MacGuffin.  The protagonist wanted to keep the MacGuffin out of the hands of the Evil One. So the protagonist handed the MacGuffin into the keeping of... a small child. A small child who spent a lot of time with the Evil One.

I hollered aloud “No she didn't! Don't be ridiculous.” And I kept reading. But a lot of readers must've stopped at this point.

Anyway, you'll never guess what happened next. With a winsome smile, the small child handed the McGuffin over to the Evil One. The only person who didn't see that coming was the protagonist.

You cannot have your protagonist be the stupidest person in the room. Readers want to identify with the protagonist, and very few readers regard themselves as the stupidest person in the room.

If your protagonist absolutely has to do something stupid in order for the plot to work, then you need your reader to be completely convinced that, in the circumstances, a smart person would do such a stupid thing. You need your protagonist to be

1. blinded by love or its approximate equivalent
2. too traumatized to think straight
3. believably drunk
4. not in possession of all, or indeed any, of the facts
5. in a complex relationship with the deceiver
6. something!

As with so much else in the storytelling biz-- the moment of idiocy has to be earned. It has to be built. A situation has to be created that makes the moment of idiocy, if not inevitable, at least believable.

Which brings us to tonight's challenge.

A callow youth and his/her stout companion have finally gotten their weary paws on the Jewel of Togwogmagog, with which they hope to save the Realm. On their way home to said realm, they stop in at the Startled Duck.

They rent a manky room, and then head downstairs for a well-earned carouse. By the end of the evening, the jewel is gone. The callow youth either

-left it in the room
-gave it to a charming stranger for safekeeping.

Choose one, and make this act of idiocy believable.


Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it isn't.
Before signing a contract with any agent or publisher, please be sure to check them out on Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write and/or Writer Beware.
Your Email has been sent.