False Beliefs/Misunderstandings

Bagpuss

Shipwrecked & comatose - where's the mango juice?
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The conclusion comes too quickly, things are too smooth.
But you're writing the story. The conclusion of that story is entirely under your control. You could make it more messy if you wanted to.
 

Swank

and debonair
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But you're writing the story. The conclusion of that story is entirely under your control. You could make it more messy if you wanted to.
I imagine that making it messy in a believable way is exactly what the OP is asking for help with.
 

Wayne Mack

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One piece of advice I've heard for characters with false beliefs or misunderstandings is that each character should be the the hero of his or her own story. In other words, a character shouldn't do bad things because the character wants to be bad, but rather the character acts because the character believes something to be right. Many times, it is the character who disagrees with mainstream beliefs in some manner who is the heroic character.

Perhaps a person may believe in scarcity of something; a medicine, food, water, or some other resource. Because of that belief, the person might believe rationing to those most deserving is justified for the benefit of all mankind. This could justify subjugation of those the person felt were undeserving. The person could take very bad actions for what the character believes is a very good reason.

A person with a background in being suppressed might fear the arrival of an advanced alien race. That person might actively lead attacks against the aliens to protect humankind even if the truth is that the aliens are benevolent.

A person may believe that a passive, yet intelligent species is not strong enough to protect itself. The person may feel justified in controlling the species 'for their own good.'

One thing that I have found that helps me is to write a backstory for significant characters to explain why they act they way they do. This may be as short as a couple of lines or it could be a past incident that runs to several pages. This text never appears in the story, but helps me understand the motivation behind a character that causes him or her to act as they do. It also helps me understand the actions that the character does not take.

Does this sort of address your question?
 

Dragonlady

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One piece of advice I've heard for characters with false beliefs or misunderstandings is that each character should be the the hero of his or her own story. In other words, a character shouldn't do bad things because the character wants to be bad, but rather the character acts because the character believes something to be right. Many times, it is the character who disagrees with mainstream beliefs in some manner who is the heroic character.

Perhaps a person may believe in scarcity of something; a medicine, food, water, or some other resource. Because of that belief, the person might believe rationing to those most deserving is justified for the benefit of all mankind. This could justify subjugation of those the person felt were undeserving. The person could take very bad actions for what the character believes is a very good reason.

A person with a background in being suppressed might fear the arrival of an advanced alien race. That person might actively lead attacks against the aliens to protect humankind even if the truth is that the aliens are benevolent.

A person may believe that a passive, yet intelligent species is not strong enough to protect itself. The person may feel justified in controlling the species 'for their own good.'

One thing that I have found that helps me is to write a backstory for significant characters to explain why they act they way they do. This may be as short as a couple of lines or it could be a past incident that runs to several pages. This text never appears in the story, but helps me understand the motivation behind a character that causes him or her to act as they do. It also helps me understand the actions that the character does not take.

Does this sort of address your question?
Thanks, I understand that, i was looking for writing prompts.
 

Bagpuss

Shipwrecked & comatose - where's the mango juice?
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i was looking for writing prompts.

Ok, you're looking for a writing prompt. I will give you one. The Dark Lord has launched his/her invasion across the frontier. He or She or Them is destined to lose according to some prophecy from the other side. You are a soldier in the Army of Darkness. What do you do?

You wanted a writing prompt - This is one. It would give you a multiple viewpoint story and something interesting, potentially, depending on what you wanted to do with it. So, I think the question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to do something creatively, or whether you want us to tell you what you should write?

Because that's impossible. We can't tell you what to write.

If you don't like the prompt then that's great. What don't you like about it? What would you change? These are rhetorical questions you should be asking yourself about this idea. Go ahead and change things, go ahead and disagree, that's fantastic!! And no I'm not being sarcastic, I'm trying to be supportive. And if you don't like the prompt then, it's honestly not going to affect me in any way.

Because I think the main problem you have is in the question you asked initially. How do I write a character with a false belief? The answer is that you have to believe that the character does not have a false belief and the character is not wrong. And that's the only way you can write it. And if you can't convince yourself that the character is right and true and just, then you'll never be able to write that character. And if it's a character whose political or religious beliefs are against your own, then that's even harder.

I'm not trying to attack you. I am trying to help you see that your problem, and the answer to your question, is not in your characters.
 

Swank

and debonair
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I am trying to help you see that your problem, and the answer to your question, is not in your characters.
I think you're being a tad reductionist. The characters don't exist any more than their motivations do. Sometimes the solution to a writing problem is a simple trick or formula or example, rather than an epiphany about the nature of fiction writing.
 

Toby Frost

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For what it's worth, one of the standard complaints I've heard about Romance novels is the author forcing unconvincing misunderstandings on characters to stop them getting together. Also, romance in non-Romance novels doesn't have to be like that anyhow. It's entirely feasible for two characters, perhaps slightly older ones, to end up together without all the weird rituals imposed by stereotypical Romance novels: meeting in some unusual way, hating each other at first sight, all those cliches.

So you don't have to write an Office-style comedy of embarrassment. But if you find writing any sort of artifice or deception on the part of characters very difficult, I think you're going to have trouble with fiction, as life is full of it, and not just in the sense of conscious deceit. Everyone would tell their own story differently, and misunderstandings come with that territory.
 

Dragonlady

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@Toby Frost Interestingly i just finished a fairly good romance novel, and was trying to read it as a writer too. There were certain material facts about a lover that the protagonist didn't register, and TBF I only did because I have a knowledge of the genre. I often find the tools other writers use to be blunter and less subtle than I am expecting, if that makes sense, one reason I want to practise trying differnet things.

@Bagpuss Thank you for the prompt! I will spend some time on it. I am 100% going to spend plenty of time getting into the heads of the characters in my WIP. Having just finished the first draft, as well as knowing some things about that story that I want to work on, it's made me aware of some of my weak points. I'm just looking for some prompts to play around with and practise on, and get me out of my comfort zone so when I start editing/revising my WIP i have built up my skills a bit and am a bit less cautious.
 

Stomalomalus

Writer to Marketer and back to writer again
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Budapest, Hungary
OK, so one of the big things about this is that false beliefs don't necessarily have to be from the outside world. They can be self-beliefs. And we all have them. I've just written a scene that ends with the main character sobbing on the shoulder of a major character. He had limiting self-beliefs about himself that led him to making poor decisions, and she laid them bare to him.

Those limiting self-beliefs are what led to this character making every decision he has taken up until this scene, which is the end of Act 1.

It was not difficult to write this character, even though he is absolutely full of these false beliefs. Because they feel understandable and real, and they're not something like COVID was a hoax, or the US election was stolen, or so on and so on. Often, because we're on the other side of these false beliefs, we tend to get stuck in a cycle of seeing them as irredeemable, that the holding of these beliefs is a major character flaw. Whereas, in reality, it's just human. They have something deep down that is leading to these beliefs. In today's world, often a desire for a simpler world, communities and a society that took care of one another.

Exploring these false beliefs is wonderful. It doesn't have to come across as some kind of plotting or negative behaviour at all. Because we all have false beliefs.
 

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