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Attribution notice removed by user avatar System · 2019-12-12T21:57:42Z (7 months ago)
Source: https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/47981
License name: CC BY-SA 4.0
License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Initial revision by (deleted user) · 2019-12-08T12:57:19Z (7 months ago)
**The "stupid action" of your character needs to line up with the traits that character usually shows**. It cannot be a random action taken out of the blue - that would, as @Amadeus points out, break the immersion.

What do I mean by "lines up with the character's usual traits"? Let me give you some examples.

- Jim Butcher, _Dresden Files_: a wizard's go-to defensive spell is a kinetic shield. Stops all kinds of projectiles, he does that automatically when it looks like things are getting dangerous. Then somebody comes at him with a flamethrower. The wizard **responds on autopilot** , and only a few seconds too late realises that his shield doesn't stop heat. He has committed himself to the wrong action, because so very often it was the right action, he responded without thinking.
- Tolkien, _The Lord of the Rings_: Pippin is young (under the age of majority), he's led a sheltered life, and he's naturally curious. He **acts impulsively** on his curiosity: he throws a stone into a well at Moria, we're left to wonder whether the action had any repercussions (whether they would have been found anyway - takes more than a day for that to happen). Then he does that again, picking up the Palantir. In the second case, Gandalf mentions the Palantir actually extends a pull on one's mind. But it couldn't have found a more fitting subject to pull.
- Diana Wynne Jones, _Howl's Moving Castle_: Sophie is confident the world is a certain way, and struggles to see anything that doesn't fit with her worldview. Multiple mistakes follow. She has a **core belief** that leads her astray.
- G.R.R. Martin, _Game of Thrones_: Ned Stark figures out Cersei's children are not Robert's. He knows from experience what Robert would do with the children, and, having a **moral code** , he is compelled to try and prevent that. Same moral code - he can't just stay silent and let a bastard remain the heir. Trusting that people he interacts with would have the same moral code he does, he goes and warns Cersei, expecting her to run. Instead, she chooses to fight.

In all such cases, the grounding is laid for the character to make a dramatic error. **The mistake is true to their character, it is acting "correctly" that would be "out of character" for them.**

Of course, a character might also be misled, or make a choice based on incomplete information. But those cases cannot be called "stupid".

Attribution notice added by user avatar System · 2019-12-08T12:57:19Z (7 months ago)
Source: https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/47981
License name: CC BY-SA 4.0
License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Imported from external source by user avatar System · 2019-09-13T00:08:30Z (10 months ago)
Original score: 18