|When characters do the unexpected|
Some writers can follow the consequences of a character's unexpected action in their minds. Certainly, the imagination is a great place to start. To put this new facet of a character to the test, it's best to sketch out the scene. You'll have to edit it; you may even need to file it away for future use. But the exercise of writing what the action — or the desire behind it — reveals is invaluable.
Here's an example. A husband and wife are on the verge of divorce. The wife's mother has been instrumental in destroying the relationship, and the husband has said so for years. Just as the couple comes to grips with their plight, the wife's mother suicides, leaving a note confessing what she's done. The husband is tempted to say, "I told you so." He's that type. Instead, he's moved with compassion for his wife, though he's exhibited precious little of this trait before. Does the writer let him express his emotions? The answer is yes, not because it's expected in a situation like this, but because the husband's response is spontaneous and shows another side of him. The couple may still break up, but if they do, it won't be because of the clichéd "my husband is an ogre" rationale.