As part of an in-person writer's group, I've often faced a phenomenon that can happen in our writing when the idea we have in our head somehow gets diluted on the page. I'll try to create a character that's annoying, and she'll come out seeming ordinary. Or, I'll try to create a character that is cowardly, and he'll come out seeming ordinary. I often feel like I have to exaggerate the character personality I'm trying to convey before readers can experience it on the page.
The idea of exaggeration isn't new, of course. Hardly anyone would argue that Shakespeare's characters are real or realistic. But, what Shakespeare manages to do is to evoke the reality of the world by representing it with exaggerated characters.
"The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from crown to the toe topful
Of direst cruelty!"
(Lady Macbeth from Act 1, scene 5 of her play.)
Really, who talks like that???
And, have you noticed that many of our favorite literary and cinematic characters are not the main protagonists, but the exaggerated side characters with the quirkiest of traits? I tend to be a stripped down stylist, but I often find that my readers respond more to my writing when I feel like I'm overstating my point just a little.
While we absolutely should strive to be reliable as writers and to trust our readers, I think it's a difficult balance as we also try to combat the dilution factor of writing to create drama and vitality in our stories.
Have you all faced this sort of thing yourselves? How do you calibrate your writing so that you can get your point across without talking down to your reader?