Some Things To Learn From Chess If You Want To Write Strong Characters

Characters are like chess pieces (don’t cheat by giving them moves that are out of their vocabulary).

Characters in novels are like chess pieces on a board; they are constrained by their circumstances, predispositions, and previous relationships.

When playing chess, you can’t make the bishop move straight forward, and you can’t make the knight move diagonally. To move the pieces in this way would be cheating; onlookers would lose interest in the chess game, because the tension would be destroyed. If anything can happen, nothing matters. There are no stakes, and the constraints that make chess a game of strategy are broken.

We read novels not because we want to watch people do fantastical things, but because we want to watch a pawn defeat a queen. We want to see what an outnumbered king can do. We want to follow the ambition of a ruthless bishop.

In your novel, there are a variety of character actions. No one character can have all the moves (except for the queen, and there is, very reasonably, only one of her).

If your readers tell you that your characters are off, consider whether you may be assigning moves to your character that they do not naturally possess. Novels are ruined this way. Readers remember. They are watching the game, and they do not like cheaters.

You, the author, are playing a game of strategy with your characters. Don’t cheat.

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