Friday, April 6, 2012

Larger-Than-Life Characters

Larger-than-life characters conquer the impossible within the world of your novel.

I was viewing various Mormon Messages in preparation for a
talk I’m giving to a group of LDS youth, and I stumbled upon this story. In
addition to evoking a tear, this short clip had me thinking about
larger-than-life characters. Isn't this kid awesome?!

Spencer Zimmerman, to me, is a real life example of a larger-than-life character here. During a time of life when peer acceptance is so critical and it is easier to be self-centered than selfless, Spencer focused on others around him who needed his friendship. His actions are larger-than-life because they are in opposition to what typical teenagers would have done.

I love characters. Character, plot and voice are perhaps three of the top key components of a good story for me. For the most part, novels who tell the stories of larger-than-life characters are the ones we’re drawn to, right?

“In life and in fiction, when people act in ways that are unusual, unexpected, dramatic, decisive, full of consequence and are irreversible, we remember them and talk about them for years.” – Donald Maass Writing the Breakout Novel

Larger-than-life characters are complex. “Three-dimensional.” They have strengths, weaknesses, conflict, goals, deep thoughts, self-awareness and a dose of humor doesn’t hurt. Larger-than-life characters conquer the impossible within the world of the novel.

Have you ever thought back on an experience and wished you’d
have acted differently? Have you ever failed to seize an opportunity? Ever
wished you had said something else, something life-changing that would have
helped someone and now the opportunity is lost? Or, on the flip side, have you
ever thought of the perfect come back after an argument is over? A perfect line
that would have had your friends laughing out loud? Ever wished you’d have
taken the higher road?
Well, at least your characters don’t have to, at least by the story's end. Authors have time to think out the perfect snippet of dialogue and contemplate their character's decisions.
One easy way to make characters larger-than-life is to have them conquer their weaknesses. Is a character painfully shy? Let them take charge and speak up. Is a character egotistic?
Try humbling them. Do they let others take advantage of them? Give them some backbone. Are they held captive and can't see a way out? Let them fight for freedom. Do they have goals they’ve been striving for but can’t accomplish? Give them the determination to clear every hurdle in their path and reach the finish line.
photo credit


  1. Hello! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Congrats for your work. If you wish to follow back that would be great I'm at
    Thanks for sharing!
    Happy Easter my dear friend!

  2. I so agree, larger than life characters aren't afraid to break out of the norm and Spencer is a great example of that!