Writing the Breakout Novel, Chapter 4: Larger-than-Life Character Qualities

by RS on October 7, 2015

Zingers, revenge, overstepping boundaries…this chapter’s focus is injecting larger-than-life qualities into your character. Maass provides numerous examples of bon mots from novels flung from various protagonists’ lips and actions that reveal sassiness, humor, emotion, bravery, and conflict.

But it’s not just words that matter, but actions. What makes your character larger-than-life? Is she like Steig Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander of the Millennium Trilogy—hacker, martial arts expert, mathematical genius but also very possibly on the spectrum? Or is he like Holden Caulfield, a depressed and sarcastic teen?

Despite Corinne’s ability to see the ghost of Alvah Bessie and to observe over time the subtle change of the miner in a Spanish Civil War poster, she doesn’t show any other larger-than-life qualities. She tends to back off too easily to avoid any confrontation. Her lack of action makes her passive but also limits her growth.

In this chapter, Maass writes:

“Harshest of limits are those we impose upon ourselves in our heads. Our inner censors are probably are more powerful than any censorship board any dictatorship could devise. Breaking through new ways of thinking, however, is the foundation of growth. To change, we must first change our minds.”

Maass asks: what’s the one thing the protagonist would never, ever say, think, or do?

What would Corinne do that’s out of character and makes her more memorable? Getting out of her head and actually doing and saying what she thinks. Oh, boy, I see a bumpier ride for her.

Lessons learned:

  • Make your character think differently. Let them go against the grain of their natural tendency. Have your character do a George Constanza. You never know what it will bring.
  • Your character may not be an action hero, but give him some sharp dialogue that makes him memorable.
  • Put your protagonist in situations that shift his perception of himself.
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