Character Advice from Dory: Letting Them Experience Adventure

We all know the rule: Be mean to your characters.

I love throwing mine into impossible situations and pushing them past their limits, but some writers really struggle with this. After all, these characters are like our friends.

So, here’s another (slightly nicer) way to think about it. Straight from the mouth of a lovable blue fish:

Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.

Dory: Well, that’s a funny thing to promise. If nothing ever happens to him, then nothing will ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

If we keep our characters safe, we also keep them static – no change, no tension, no stakes. Not much fun for readers either. By pushing our characters, though, we give them room to grow, gain new experiences and become a dynamic force in our novels that readers fall in love with.

Go ahead. Take a dare.

Let your characters touch the butt.

And if you need help with your dialogue, Dory has excellent advice on that too.


  1. Great advice from Dory! You need to test the mettle of your characters, and to be honest I enjoy putting them through their paces. I headed over to the Writing Nut, great interview.

  2. I kind of had trouble doing this when I first started out but, after a bit, I found it fun and a great way to really ratchet up the story.

  3. Lovely to have you on my blog today!

  4. Definitely good advice. I still wonder sometimes if I make my character suffer enough.

  5. Wonderful advice from Dory, although I sometimes have a hard time being nice to my characters. Some don't even get happy endings.

  6. Love this advice :) Thanks for putting it into Dory-speak!

  7. Nick - Thanks! I agree about testing the mettle.

    Mark - It's definitely fun to throw obstacles at characters. :)

    Nutschell - Thanks for having me! The post looks great.

    LG - Yeah, I think we all wonder how much is enough.

    Cherie - Uh oh. Don't sign me up to be one of your characters. :)

    Martina - No problem!

  8. Saw your interview earlier!
    Forgot that she called him Harpo. Funny.

  9. That quote is awesome! I'm going to print it out and paste it on my computer to remind me that something must happen to my characters. That's why Finding Nemo made my Top Ten list.

  10. Hehe, let them touch the butt *snigger*

    Good advice though; let your characters put themselves in sticky situations and see where it leads. Shall see you over at Writing Nut!

    aaaaannd .....

  11. Great quote and an excellent point! Where's the conflict if nothing happens to your characters?

  12. Yes, wonderful quote! Love the writing space, too.

  13. Dory is wise! I'm off to Nutschell's!

  14. I love when Harpo touches the butt ;)

  15. Alex - Thanks for stopping by the interview. The way Dory messes up Nemo's name always makes me laugh. :)

    Jenn - Yay! What a great idea.

    Jamie - Exactly. And thanks for jumping to the Writing Nut!

    Emily - I agree. Characters are far more interesting with conflict.

    Miranda - Thanks!

    Christine - She is indeed. :)

    Charmaine - Me too!

  16. Excellent thought, and totally agree. Off to check out your space. :)

  17. Dory is awesome.

    I agree with you that bad things have to happen to characters, but there's a fine line between creating tension/conflict and turning your character into a woobie. :-P