I heard a writer comment that one of his readers had pointed out a problem in his manuscript: His protagonist didn’t show a lot of emotion. When faced with a personal situation, like a death, the protagonist hardly reacted and went on about his business after a sentence or two.
This struck a chord. It happened to me, too.
When I only had 30 pages presentable enough to share, I had it pointed out that my protagonist, a female, who discovered a crime scene and a body early in the story, was very matter-of-fact about it. I was told that no one outside of a police procedural would react like that, or rather, not react. So I had a choice to make: Make my protagonist more emotionally clued in or make her even less so.
I seriously considered creating an autistic character like the one in The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.
I probably could have done it. But I didn’t go there. Instead, I added moist eyes, a runny nose, a tear-streaked puffy face, a breathless aching chest filled with trembling quaking heartbeats, nightmares, and so on.
In a similar vein, I also had problems with a fight scene later in the book. My first attempt ran a whole paragraph. I got called on that one, too. I made it better. Had to. It couldn’t get worse.
I wrote about my three-step system of getting through a scene in my Aug. 18th blog post: I start with the dialog, add motion, and lastly—work in the emotions. The process has helped me deal with these pesky problems.
Also, by adding the emotional low spots, I’ve given my protagonist a better starting point on her character arc.
The result: Things are looking up—for both of us.