Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Creating Characters with Depth

One of the ways of adding depth to your stories is to make sure your characters have depth. You need to go far beyond having a character with a basic set of emotions coupled with a physical description of the character.

Your character needs history. What has happened in her life to make her who she is? What’s her relationship with her parents, siblings, children, friends, bosses, teachers, and others?

No one is perfect, so your character needs flaws. How do these flaws play into the plot? Do they create additional conflict, internally or externally? Even if your antagonist is the most evil person in the world, your character needs some good qualities to show their humanity. Obviously, your protagonist needs good qualities too. Otherwise we won’t care what happens to her.

Your characters need to have inner conflicts that the people around them can’t see or don’t know about. Everyone puts on a front or a face that they show the world, which is different than how they view themselves. We need to see the discrepancies between the character’s inner self and the self they show the world. When we talk, we don’t always say what we mean—the same thing has to happen with your characters from time to time—where you know they’re thinking one thing, but saying something different. Once again it becomes the clash between the inner self and the outer self.

These are just a few things to watch out for when adding depth to your characters. Below are a few of my favorite books that provide even more valuable insights on creating characters with depth.

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card - Provides invaluable perspectives on how to develop and use your characters to make your stories come alive.

The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus – While this book primarily focuses on how to add humor to your stories, it also covers many aspects of creating multi-dimensional characters in terms of their flaws, humanity, and unique perspective on the world.

Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon - From listings of physical attributes to character actions and the way they dress, this is a good reference or resource book for helping you define the unique characteristics of your individual characters.

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