Don’t let characters chew the furniture

Among the biggest mistakes novice authors can make with their characters is having them over-emote their situations. When doing so, the writer is said to be making the craftsmanship error of “chewing the furniture.” It’s a term adopted from theater’s “chewing the scenery” that describes actors who ham it up.

In fact, a good example of an over-emoting character comes from television, specifically William Shatner’s Captain Kirk. While Shatner is a solid actor who puts in mostly excellent performances in that role, sometimes he attempted to compensate for bad scriptwriting by overacting, specifically by speaking words with more emphasis and pausing longer between them than a person would in real life.

The problem with chewing the furniture is that it breaks the fictional dream for readers. They’ll find the character’s statements and actions to be out of sync with reality and with how s/he was presented earlier in the book. If the worse happens, readers will find the character humorous, making the store camp.