I loved Erynn's post on sap! ;)
Keeping in that same thread, I thought I'd post something today on keeping our characters real, as well. Because we've all been there - reading a novel (or even writing one, yikes!) when the hero or heroine (or even a side character) did something so random and perfect, you just wanted to put the book down in digust.
It all (always) goes back to one question - "is your writing contrived?"
Are you setting the scene up in a way that would really happen if your book took place in an actual room with actual people instead of on a page? Or are you setting the scene up because you need to be able to get to the next scene, so X and Y simply HAVE to happen?
If your answer is the latter, odds are you need to revise!
Now don't get me wrong, sometimes characters NEED to do things out of character. But only when that act comes from growth and character arc, usually toward the end of the story - such as a hero who was phobic of water being able to jump in the lake at the end of the story to save the heroine's child. Throughout his journey, we saw his phobia, respected it, sympathized for him, urged him into those muddy waters, and applauded him after. It was an arc. He didn't reveal his phobia and jump in the pond the same day. It was part of his journey, and in good Christian fiction, there would be a spiritual lesson mixed into that as well (such as letting go of control, trusting God when we can't trust anything else, etc.)
Revealing your heroine's fear of public performing in Chapter 2 and then having her leap up on a karaoke bar in Chapter 3 and have a blast belting out Shania Twain is NOT character arc and growth ;)
See the difference?
This is true when it comes to plot, as well. "Coincidences" happen in real life, and answered prayers, and spiritual intervention - of COURSE we believe that as Christians. But just like angels don't swoop down to save us in every day life, and just like we don't get the tangible hand of God writing His plan for us in the sky every day, we shouldn't let it happen to our characters regularly either. Because in fiction, it's even more obvious that it's a coincidence.
It's all about the build-up, folks. Plan it out. Build it up. Weave that thread. There's nothing more annoying to me in fiction (I harp on this all the time, and I'm sorry but it's just TRUE) than a "how convenient" moment of disgust when that SAME thing could have happened and been totally accepted by me and appreciated had it just had the proper weaving/build-up throughout previous chapters.
Any questions on contrived writing? :)