Allowing Your Characters to Have a “Wicked Sense” of Humor

Fabio Bueno AuthorThe last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about when to show and when to tell. This week I have a special treat for you. Debut author Fabio Bueno has stopped by to give us an example from his new book of how he showed how much a character had changed rather than just telling his readers she was feeling more confident.

Fabio writes young adult/urban fantasy/paranormal novels, including the award-winning Wicked Sense. He resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and kids. When not writing or reading, he geeks out with family and friends, solidifies his reputation as the world’s slowest runner, and acts very snobbish about movies. (His words, not mine 🙂 )

Take it away, Fabio…


In Wicked Sense, Skye is a modern-day witch trying to find a powerful Sister in her high school. When the plot thickens, Skye must have a talk with her ex, Connor, who is in college. He had not been a good boyfriend, and they had had a bad break up. Now, she is going to the University of Washington to meet him. There, she finds Connor making out with a girl in the library. Still, Skye has to talk to him.

My original plan had her simply clearing her throat and letting them know she was there. This scene would later spark an internal monologue by Skye in which she would reflect and conclude she had moved on: she wasn’t interested in Connor anymore.

However, I thought clearing the throat would be too tame, an overused device. Skye had recently gone through some changes; her reaction should reflect these changes. A few options that crossed my mind:

– Skye makes a sarcastic comment

– She doesn’t mind seeing her boyfriend and comes back later

– She steps out and calls him on his cell phone

– Skye goes to the desk and asks the librarian for a book in that row; the librarian catches them and scolds them

I ended up writing the scene below, from Skye’s point of view:

Navigating the aisles, I feel like the books embrace me. I crisscross the rows until I zero in on him.

He’s being smothered by a redhead in jeans and high heels. It’s a long, slobbery kiss. They’re very much into it, their hands reaching places. That’s probably why Connor hasn’t sensed my presence yet.

As I’m about to clear my throat and help them avoid a public indecency charge, an idea comes to me. There are more entertaining ways of doing it.

“Connor!” I yell. My cry shatters the library’s stillness.

They disentangle, startled.

“How could you?” I continue, still loud. Someone on another aisle tries to shush me. “You leave me and the twins at home to suck face with this skank?”

The shushes die. The redhead looks at him. A couple of students stare.

“Skye, I—”

I don’t let him speak. “That’s why I slave every night, waitressing? Paying your tuition? And you’re here, still using that fake British accent to pick up girls!”

He shakes his head. The girl is now mad at him, not even caring about me calling her a name. More people gather around us.

“The twins don’t have shoes! And you know there’s one more on the way,” I say, touching my belly, adding a slight hint of quivering to my voice.

The girl slaps him. Hard. And struts away. She stops by my side to say something to me, but I close my eyes and raise my hand to silence her. She just leaves.

Mum has an Oscar, you know.

Connor pleads, whispering, “Can we take this somewhere else?”

My hands cover my eyes (because I don’t know how to cry on cue), but I nod. The crowd disperses.

After we leave the library, I start to laugh. Connor puts his hands on both sides of his head and looks at me as if he’s seeing me for the first time. I can’t stop laughing. Maybe it’s a release from all the tension of the last couple of days.

Wicked Sense by Fabio BuenoUp until that week, Skye had been tentative, shy, and reactive, but she was growing stronger and more confident. The scene SHOWS that Skye had changed, her new outlook on life, and how she had moved on. It even lets Connor get a little comeuppance. A few people mentioned that this is one of their favorite scenes in the book. I remember writing it at the library and laughing. And all this because I needed an alternative for “clearing the throat.”

One of the best advices about characterization I heard is: “What would this character do? What would only this character do? What would only this character do in this point of her life?”

I would add: let your character do her thing. It might not be your thing. But if she must do it, let her.

What’s the best piece of advice about characters you’ve ever been given?

You can connect with Fabio on his website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Click here to buy Wicked Sense in ebook format.

Click here to buy Wicked Sense in print.

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