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Do You Have Out-of-Timing Characters?

November 23, 2012

Sometimes while working at the office I get a feeling: a strong tingling sensation that something is about to happen, something dangerous, something devastating, and I’m the only one who can stop it.

It causes me to stop typing and look around.

I would tell my co-worker that I’m getting that feeling again, to which she responds by giving me a strange and confused look.

Even though I insist that someone is in trouble and I’m the only one who can save them, she dismisses me as a babbling weird guy.

But how could she understand? The situation is not a job for her, it’s a job, for me.

So I would roll back my chair to stand and go outside to search for the pending danger.

Naturally, I don’t see anything wrong.

But what’s even more natural is the fact that my co-worker doesn’t believe me.

And there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for that: I’m just an IT guy. The most dangerous thing about my job is walking up the stairs.

My life is completely out of sync with that situation.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, when someone acts or says something totally inappropriate or off topic, we say they are out-of-timing, probably originating from our addiction to dancing to fast pace music like Soca or Dancehall.

So if it makes sense that I would not be able to suddenly detect impending danger, why would it make sense for a character who has no skills in martial arts to suddenly start beating up everybody?

I have seen movies where a protagonist is established as a gunslinger for the entire film, and then in the end he suddenly picks up a sword and acts as if he’s been using it his entire life.

These out-of-timing characters really kill the pace and takes away from how believable they are. Check out 100 Stories 100 Weeks for more details on why an author might do this.

So don’t just give your character a skill out of nowhere like if he requested a download from the all seeing operator. You have to establish somewhere in your story that he trained, or studied, or was somehow exposed to it.

That way, readers will be able to accept the sequence of events.

So what’s my excuse for that feeling, it turns out a trip to the washroom made everyone safe again.

So what do you think about out-of-timing characters? Let me know in the comments. And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to read Dirk the Juggernaut, this month’s trailer of my latest book, King Larsen.

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From → Writing Tips

  1. narina permalink

    Hahahaha…oh god i almost died laughing here. I am pretty sure none will take your super hero tingling sensations for granted anymore. (Do you remember what the co-worker said could be an explanation for that feeling you getting?) Lol who knows…we might see you on tv6 one night as that guy who saves kids from a burning blding….just dont be the one to set o fire first :p lol

    • I sure do. Just to let the public know, Narina is that co-worker I was talking about.

  2. Keisha K permalink

    Just a note to let you know that I’m really enjoying your blog. Keep it up

  3. Thanks for the shout out Jevon! As for that feeling you have, I work in a bank, so I know it well. The “Oh Gee, I hope this guy doesn’t rob us,” feeling. As for out-of-timing characters, everything you said here is on the mark. It feels awkward when characters do things we didn’t think they could do or should do. If there’s an explanation, fine, but like I said in my post, “Because it’s cool isn’t an answer.” Great post!

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