Characters: Bigger Than Life

Character Emotions MUST Spill Out into Big Actions

Characters, even supporting characters, should be bigger than life. No flat characters. Fiction demands round, “fleshed-out” characters. I’m working on a revision and I know this. Yet, when a friend read my revision, her response was that I needed big actions for my characters.

In the revision, I had noticed that the supporting character (Father) didn’t have much reaction to the main character (Laurel). I revised, adding in actions. But the actions were small: fist clenched, raising eyebrow, turning away.

Nothing wrong with those actions if Matt Damon was doing them on the big screen. There, the small actions would mean more. But think of him as Bourne and you’ll remember the BIG actions.

Revise for Emotions that Spill Out into Action

Revised: now, Father picks up a blanket and shakes it, snapping it up and down. He throws it onto a bed and when it falls off, he wads it up and throws it at the wall. It’s not the huge actions of an action-thriller, but in the context of the current scene, these are big actions. (Make sure you keep everything relative and in context!)

Even supporting characters need big actions. So, why didn’t I use them before? I think it’s because I’m a very restrained person myself. I keep a tight rein on emotions, not letting them spill out into big actions. That means for my characters, I need to push them to build emotions so strong that they MUST spill over into big actions.

And yes, the revision is much stronger. My early readers report that the Father is starting to come alive. Hello, Dad!