Articles / On Writing

Quick Tip: Characters Aren’t Mind Readers


Back in December, Diva Lauren wrote a quick tip on how readers aren’t mind readers. Well, today, we’re going to take that a step further and discuss how characters aren’t mind reader either. 🙂

This article is for those of you who are writing in the perspective of a character instead of an omniscient narrator. There’s a part of every author that will rebel against the notion of being stuck inside one characters’ head. After all, you’ve developed the story. You know the ends and outs of each character. Let me repeat that. YOU know the ends and outs of every character, but the character you are writing does not.

This is where you have to draw a clear line between the knowledge you have as an author and the knowledge that your character has. So when you are writing as Character X, remember she doesn’t have the ability to read minds, infer non-obvious details, or discern the hearts and intentions of those around her.

So be careful of terms like these: could tell, knew, understood, and seemed to be. And what’s more, be especially cautious of directly stated knowledge. Don’t define what the look on another character’s face means or what a character is trying to convey with a look or state outright that a character knows what another character is thinking. These are all cases of mind reading.

So now that you aren’t going to have your characters read minds, what do you do instead? Well, this is where the fun begins. Use your character’s ignorance to your advantage. It’s okay to have character read a situation wrong or believe a lie. You could even use a character’s lack of understanding to pull a sleight of hand and misdirect the reader for a short period of time.

While mind reading may seem to be awesome, it’s actually a bit of trickily relayed ignorance on a character’s part that can make a story fresh and realistic.


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