On making people who “don’t exist” as real as the ones who “do”

I don’t smoke. I don’t really care if you do or don’t, as long as A) I don’t have to breathe it in and B) when one of the numerous illnesses that come with the habit latch on to you my taxes don’t have to pay for your upkeep.

But this post isn’t about smoking. Smoking’s just an example. Stats vary by country and age and a million other demographics, but something around 20-25 percent of people on the first world smoke. The thing is though, I’ve written hundreds of fictional characters and I can’t remember making any of them (aside from the occasional bit player or two) into smokers.

And why is that?  I think it’s because I can’t pretend (in my head) that smoking is cool or worthwhile or any of the other stereotypes commonly associated with it.

So, there we have it. It isn’t as simple as “Chris doesn’t smoke therefore his characters don’t smoke either”. I don’t murder “do” most of the the things my characters do, except in my mind. Up there, though, in the dark and light places in everyone’s head where the stories come from, I guess I somehow can imagine murders, hauntings, FTL drives and everything else and not imagine a good reason for people to smoke.

It’s odd. So, here’s my challenge, to you and to me. Go through your fiction. If your good at what you do then I’m sure your characters aren’t always the same color as you are, nor are they always the same sexual orientation or income level. They don’t think like you and they don’t talk like you. But, unless it’s a plot point, do they lie? Smoke? Steal? Are they unfaithful? Do they chew their nails, or talk too loudly when they drink to much, or push a joke too far?

Do they do the things you don’t accept from yourself for reasons other than to push the plot along? If they don’t, maybe some of them should…

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