In her critique of Snowed In, my friend Karen made a good suggestion to me. After delicately pointing out that I tend to write my characters too calm, she proposed a writing exercise. I’ve tried it once now, and will continue to use it, so thought I would pass it along in case any of you find yourself writing too-tame characters from time to time.
Write your character completely over-reacting to a situation. Something that would only aggravate (such as having someone else steal one’s hailed cab, for example, or dropping a carefully crafted sandwich on the floor) sets your character off into an unrealistically over-the-top tirade. Or perhaps something mildly sad happens, and severely depresses him or her.
Whatever the catalyst, overdo the emotion. Then, before inserting into your story, tone it down a little (unless you want your character to come across as someone who easily flies off the handle). Have fun!