I LOVE Chapter Four of Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. The title is "Larger-Than-Life Character Qualities." Maass is all for giving your characters these qualities. The "why" is understood. It's because larger-than-life characters are more interesting! Just look at the Prodigal Son. The obedient son stays home and works alongside his father. The prodigal son takes his half of the inheritance, goes off to have adventures, loses all his money, then he comes home, not expecting anything -- and the father kills the fatted calf for him, to the resentment of the son who stayed by his father's side all these years. And why does the father do this? Because the prodigal son is more interesting.
One way to make your characters larger than life is zingers. We love characters who snap off zingers the way we wish we could. Maass gives an example from One for the Money by Janet Evanovich, in which Stepahnie Plum tells the reader how Joe Morelli "charmed the pants off me four minutes after closing, on the floor of Tasty Pastry, behind the case filled with chocolate eclairs."
She doesn't see him until three years later, in front of Giovichinni's Meat Market. He's on foot and she's driving to the mall in her father's Buick. She guns the engine and clips him from behind, then stops the car, gets out, and asks if anything is broken.
He was sprawled on the pavement, looking up my skirt. "My leg."Now that's a larger-than-life character.
"Good," I said. Then I turned on my heel, got into the Buick, and drove to the mall.
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase is filled with zingers by the heroine. Here's a passage after she catches the hero with two buxom trollops in his lap:
"When Bertie told me how how much you paid, I thought it was their services which were so horrifically expensive," she said. "Now, however, I comprehend my error. Obviously you pay by volume."Not every writer can do zingers like Evanovich and Chase, and Maass mentions other ways to make your protagonists larger than life. In my wip, I started with larger-than-life characters, especially the heroine. She's an alien who comes to earth with special abilities, which she exhibits in a unique way early on in the book.
"Perhaps to you the price is exorbitant," he said, while his hands itched to shake her. "But then, I am not so shrewd as you. Perhaps, in future, you would like to conduct negotiations for me. In which case, I ought to describe my requirements. What I like --"
"You like them big, buxom, and stupid," she said.
One of the exercises at the end of the chapter is writing down one thing your protagonist would never do. Then find places in your story where the character would do just that.
In your wip, how are your characters larger than life?