Say your characters are standing before the moss-draped opening of a dark, gloomy cave, and they’re deciding whether or not to go in.
You know they need to, because there’s a glimmering, all-powerful gem in that cave they need to find (and a nine-legged creature with slobbery fangs and poison barbs guarding it), but you don’t have to keep it as simple as that. (‘Simple’ being … relative in this example.) Character A saying, “Let’s go in” and Characters B and C nodding and saying, “Sure, that sounds good” might get them through the door, but it doesn’t lend much by way of excitement — or character development.
Agreeing, in fiction, isn’t nearly as exciting as disagreeing.
Character A may want to hurry into the cave because he’s impatient to prove himself, never mind that Character B admits she’s hesitant. Character B could be scared to enter, because it’s dark, and gloomy, and there’s a legend of a nine-limbed something-or-other that lurks inside.
A could bully B into getting over her fear, and C could chime in, displaying sympathy. “If B’s scared, she doesn’t have to do it,” he insists.
This sets B off, because she never said she was scared, only hesitant. And suddenly B, cheeks flushing with embarrassment, is insisting it’s fine, let’s just get in there already. Victorious, A leads the way inside without caring that B’s bravery might not be genuine, and C trails behind, worried not only of what lies ahead, but that their group dynamic might not be healthy — and might lead to even bigger problems later on.
Something like that, achieved in a very short space of time, adds a lot more to the story than “Wanna go in?” “Yeah okay.” Don’t be afraid to let your characters challenge each other. The straightest line between two plot points might not be the most fun to travel. Give each character their own motivations and agendas, and when it comes to making decisions, let them duke it out!
Devil’s Advocate: Beware, however, of characters who bicker endlessly and pointlessly! While disagreements can reveal character depth, they’re only effective if there is character depth to reveal. If your characters are constantly arguing for no reason, the reader will quickly find them obnoxious and tiring. Make sure your characters fight to propel the plot forward or reveal previously hidden motivations. They have to fight because there’s something worth fighting about![/su_note]