I write my characters as people first. No one fights all the time. (In fact, in real life, even "hardened" warriors only ever fight a few battles on average. It is a rare soldier that manages to kill five of the enemy and live to tell about it. Forget Legolas vs Gimli style contests to see who can kill however many dozens of enemies.) And note that most famous warriors in history who went above and beyond those numbers (like Musashi, Alexander, etc.) were also intellectuals aside from being warriors or leaders. They enjoyed things that what some today would consider "unmanly", like poetry and theater.
I'm sure you've met some people in real life you would consider very tough, maybe you have a brother that is a marine or works a dangerous job. And I'll bet you see them as people with various tastes and likes. Just because someone is tough and can do what needs to be done doesn't mean they can't be emotionally available or like classical music.
And lastly: not everyone that has been through trauma or danger becomes callous and distant. Some of the most sensitive and pacifistic people I ever met fought in war. My grandfather fought in Korea, and afterward hid his medals away and refused to discuss war with his children or grandchildren, thinking that the world would be a better place if people focused more on hard work and building rather than breaking.
The late, great Theodore Sturgeon experimented with stories featuring tough-as-nails characters who still have an internal life. One thing he did was to have them vaguely aware of things they hadn't noticed before. Your choice what that is. In one story, for example, a character's personal evolution starts with the question, "Why's the wet end of a towel darker than the dry one?" He never finds out, but he slowly begins asking such questions more often, until he learns to find the answers as well. This is only one approach, but I'd suggest the general idea would work for you. Have your character distracted by something small that we tend to overlook, and don't have them was philosophical about it; just notice it. And then another, later. Maybe the things begin to link up without being consciously related. And so on....
Well, I think it was as much momentum in that genre as anything else, but yes: it's a solid, unobtrusive way to evolve the character and the story, as well. I'll be curious to know if the notion works for you, and if so, what you do with it...
A story (novel?) you're writing, I gather? Well, perhaps this is a great opportunity. You aren't emotionally invested in it. You think it's awful. It can do nothing but pleasantly surprise you, at this point...
Correct, a novel. Trying to be one anyways. Tis the mindset I keep with most the things I make; I enjoy having a forced modesty about things. XD Always look at the storm dreading rain, forgetting that you Like rain.
Well, you're further along than me. I've never even concocted a novel-length plot for anything, and thus have never come close to writing one. Exactly! Stand at the bottom of the chasm and there's nowhere to go but up!
If they're not interesting in low action scenes, then I ask this: Are they interesting in action scenes or is the action interesting?
Even gruff, hard as nails manly men, have personality and opinions and - yes it's true - feelings. If their base personality isn't working then change their base personality. Round them out a little bit more, make them into people instead of archetypes.
My advice? Go watch Predator and study the interactions between characters when they are not fighting. Each one is a person and a soldier.
Even the brief dialogue between Billy and Poncho in that movie offered some insight into the former's character before they were dropped off in that jungle. Heh, brief as he was Billy was also one of the more interesting of that cast.
If all it took to make a movie memorable was good action, there would be a lot more "classics". Predator is a great action movie with a great villain but there must be something more. Predator's script says a lot about the individual characters in a very small space. Talk about making every word count!
Well, plenty of good reasons why they have that personality. I'm concerned though that sticking to that personality exhausts their ... interesting factor. Like, what you might do when a character simply doesn't talk a lot?
Okay, I'm getting a bit of a contradiction here. You say there are good reasons for them to be like that, but then you say they're boring in any other setting. Is there a reason to follow them into the other setting? Presumably having a good reason would mean you had some content that you need to get across to the reader.
Oh no, I'm not saying they are boring. I'm trying to prevent them from being so.
But that's a fair question: Is there any reason to follow them to the next scene. If I recall there was a thread earlier about following the main character through most of the story? Perhaps I wonder if secondary characters 'need' to be overshadowed, or if they should instead be explored just as much as the main character.
Aye I'm concerned about the former, the sake of writing scenes in order to maintain the flow of the rest of the story. I'd hate to be forced to switch the pacing just because I've ran out of interesting mellow things to say. ;D
Any well constructed character should have as wide a range of moods as any real person. Their personalities may typically display a dominant note, but even a generally calm, happy person might get sad, hurt, stressed, excited, etc. depending on circumstances.
Or is this about something else? I'm not sure I understand the problem.
I'm not entirely sure what you mean? Are you meaning you have a problem with making her seem tough in chapters where she doesn't fight?
People change their behaviors and moods all the time depending on who their with and what's going on. Even moody and broody people know how to have a good time. They must enjoy something. I personally find it pretty boring when characters only have the one mood for the entire story.