Yesterday, I talked with a friend about my desire to try growing some vegetables because I was concerned about the long term effects of pesticides and hormones in food. I decided that if I grew my own lettuce (the vegetable I eat most frequently) and beans (the vegetable that grows no matter how terrible I am as a gardener) then that would be a good thing.

This morning, the first thing I did was pour a massive glass of soda. All that empty calories and corn syrup (which I am frequently told contains trace amounts of mercury) and who knows what else to give me my required morning caffeine. Ahhhh soda. Rust cleaning, inside eating, soda. Mmmmmm.

But I still plan on growing some vegetables.

If I was a character in a story, we could have a major logic problem. If, um, “Stacy” was so concerned about the chemicals she was putting into her body, then why would she continue to drink something that was nothing but chemicals and other artificial (but delicious) things?

If Stacy’s physical problem was that she was going to take on the food industry – eliminating meat glues and growth hormones in chickens, etc. – then for her to slug six cans of soda a day becomes either:

– a logic/character problem
– a way to show that Stacy can be hypocritical
– a way to prove that Stacy doesn’t ultimately believe in taking on the food industry, and has another secret motive for her campaign

Everybody in real life has these contradictions, or value systems that don’t always mesh into a neat black and white. But in fiction, it just can’t be that she really likes soda but is also concerned about trying to eat a little healthier.

So how would you know if you’re dealing with a logic problem that needs to be fixed (change the soda to water or tea) or a character illuminating clue?

Look at your plot and your character’s role within it.

– If you change that soda to water or tea, does it affect the story?
– Does this detail fit within your character’s value system?
– If not, are you using this detail specifically to foreshadow to your reader that things are not what they seem?

Simply put: if you didn’t write this detail in with a purpose, it’s probably a character contradiction that might need to be revised.

And now, off to finish my glass o’ chemicals!

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