Recently, I got a manuscript back from an editor. Not only had she read it but she made comments as well. Evidence of actual reading! Oh, joyous happy dance. Then, I read one of her comments. “Finishing this job is easy. There’s no way he would put it off.”
Seriously? I live with this character, or at least I live with the person behind the character. This person would definitely put this task off. Easy? So what. That doesn’t matter. The question is does he want to do it, because he puts off everything he doesn’t want to do. Easy. Important. Urgent. If he doesn’t want to do something, he will get it done at the very last possible moment even if his putting it off is causing me to break out in hives. I’ve actually told him his ability to procrastinate is the lamest super power ever. That’s reality.
But what I’m writing is fiction. This means that if this action doesn’t work in the story, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter if that’s how something really happened or not.
A story may be based on things that actually happened, but fiction is not fact. Very often, it has to make more sense than real life makes. The logical connections need to be there for one and all to see and understand. Just because something happened in real life doesn’t mean that it will work in fiction.
Does this mean that I’m changing my character’s action? Yes and no. He has to procrastinate for there to even be a story, but I can change some other things that will make his procrastinating seem more logical by making this final step more difficult. After all, this is fiction and doesn’t have to take place the same way it would in real life. Use reality to fuel your fiction, but don’t let it limit your story.