Writing Tip: Make a bigger deal out of stuff

Some of my biggest writing advice when I’m working with writers: Make a bigger deal out of stuff.

Haydu goes on to say this:

I do often see something in a manuscript that I find infuriating or fascinating or scary but the main character is sort of brushing by. Or very little time is spent exploring a fight that if I had it irl I’d obsess about for years. 

THE BALANCE BETWEEN FAST PACED AND EMOTIONALLY SATISFYING

I had the same reaction to a many scenes in Pretty Little Liars. To take one example, in season two Hannah and Emily tell Aria that her crush has been taking creepy photos of her while she’s asleep. 

Aria says that she’s horrified, but then walks away from the table before asking more questions ie What, exactly, are the pictures of? She’s still basically fine.

It turns out later in that same episode that it’s probably not the crush who has taken the pics — it was Alison, the night she died. This explains from a writing perspective why the writers didn’t spend much time on Aria’s emotional reaction. The writers would have known the full story, and therefore sort of forgot what it must be like to not be in possession of the full story ie. To be Aria.

The sheer number of events that happen in PLL means that the writers don’t have (or take) the time to explore any one thing. The characters gloss past some potentially interesting emotional reactions, because it’s kind of like the Trump news cycle — one damn thing after another.

WHY WE GET LARGER THAN LIFE CHARACTERS

All my great characters are larger than life, not realistic. In order to capture the quality of life in two and a half hours, everything has to be concentrated, intensified. You must catch life in moments of crisis, moments of electric confrontation. In reality, life is very slow. Onstage, you have only from 8:40 to 11:05 to get a lifetime of living across.

Tennessee Williams, American playwright (1911 – 1983)

What does Williams mean by ‘larger than life’? In part, I believe he means they react in slightly exaggerated ways. Audiences expect this of fiction.

CONTRAST WITH

Chewing the furniture

This is a term from theatre, used to describe actors who are over-emoting their characters. I suspect when writers miss opportunities to ‘make a bigger deal out of stuff’ they are worried about attracting this criticism.