Over the weekend I was discussing the first four chapters of my novel with a friend. She told me that a character of mine was heavily cliche in that she just seemed like almost a stock character… Snotty, Tennis Club Bully.
I love when people say things like this because I can just shout, “You are absolutely right!” and fix it. It’s a first draft. You’d have to be stupid to not think a first draft isn’t a work in progress.
But this got me thinking… well, this is a very small-time character. She is written currently as a 1-D Bully, but I only have about two scenes (maybe 500 words) with this character so time is not on my side. So I started thinking about how to make her more than just that… I mean, look at Dudley. He’s not much more than a spoiled jock.
So I’ve decided that I’m going to up the ante. Don’t write about a silly, insecure girl that picks on a future protagonist. (Been there, seen it a million times. Wow that makes our protagonist a better person… Surprise.) Write the meanest, cruelest little girl that has ever picked on a strange child. Why not? Kids can be sadistically cruel. It won’t even be unbelievable. If anything, malicious creativity can make a character seem more real (Hannibal Lector?).
Let’s think bigger.
You need two characters to have a talk about how incredible the world is. Don’t just put them on a mountaintop. Put them on the most spectacular, breathtaking mountain of all time. Why not? Trust me, there are way more insane sights in real life than there are in our minds.
Don’t let your character say something uninteresting. Don’t let them make the predictable choice. Look at every decision they make and ask yourself, would everyone do that? Because if they would, what makes your character extraordinary then? I once had a professor, when describing his favorite book (Rabbit Redux), say, “What I loved so much about Rabbit was that every time I thought he was going to do one thing, he did the complete opposite.”
We are not in the business of writing reality. We are in the business of writing Fiction. Let’s make Fiction spectacular. Let’s make the world as big and bold as we can. Up the ante. Put everything on the line. I mean, everything. Writing a book is like placing a bet and if you’re not going all-in then you’re not putting enough into it.
Let’s think bigger.