When is a Character Too Much?

13 Jan

I had a friend of mine read my book last week. It was weird for me because it’s a Young Adult book mostly aimed at girls and he’s a young-20-something-professional. Not exactly my ideal reader. Sill, he read it through (twice!) and gave me some good feedback on scenes and characters. And of course, I’m going to blog about it.

One of the things he said is that a character of mine seemed over the top and unbelievable. I understand completely why he said this. My problem is that I wanted her to seem a little over the top, but not unbelievable. It got me thinking, when is a character’s personality ‘too much?’

I recently started watching the show New Girl on Netflix and I find it funnier than a baby turtle eating a huge strawberry (Google this, it’s hilarious). One of the characters in the show, Schmidt, I find over the top and unbelievable. But do you know what? He’s my favorite character. I can’t imagine ever meeting anyone like him in real life because he’s such a character. And yes, I mean that in more ways than one. There are other more realistic characters written into the show that help accentuate how eccentric Schmidt is and I still love him. Now, I’m thinking that it might not be a bad thing for a character to be a little unbelievable. We’re each such individuals that no one would believe that we’re real.

I further questioned myself, is it bad that my character is over the top? Do I want her to be? Yes. Do I want her to seem unbelievable? No. But where is the balance? Where is the thin wire and how can I jump onto it?

I’m thinking of people I’ve met who seem over the top. I knew an ‘over the top jock’ in high school, I’m friends with an ‘over the top theater nerd,’ I went to college with a ‘I think I’m Japanese even though I was born 100% Caucasian in the Midwest’ girl and at a NaNo event, I think I saw a British pixie. So that’s about four, five if you safely assume I’m forgetting one at the moment. And these people are memorable. I can describe their characteristics that make them almost unbelievable in vivid detail. Isn’t that what we want in our characters? Don’t we want them to jump off the page and scream at our readers so that they can’t forget them?

Thinking back on my manuscript, I think I could tune my character down a little bit and maybe humanize her a little more by adding more motivation so you understand what made her so over the top. Besides this, I don’t really want to change a lot; I like her. Though, I want my readers to like her as much as I do.

Reader, I need your advice. When is a character too much? When has a writer gone past ‘over the top’ and hit the moon instead? Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

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Until next time, write on.

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2 Responses to “When is a Character Too Much?”

  1. strangewriter January 13, 2014 at 4:23 PM #

    Here’s my armchair analysis: When characters are intense or over-the-top, it’s a good thing but I think the line is drawn when all factors of their personality become exaggerated. If you enhance her lack of inhibition, then she will be over-the-top, but if you enhance everything else as well then that would be too much. If you know people who are ‘over-the-top’ then you have wonderful insight as to their family life and how they were raised. Use it. 🙂

    Like

    • Sam January 13, 2014 at 4:59 PM #

      I’m leaning in the same direction. I think I might need to pick the few things my character does that are exaggerated and limit the others.

      Like

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