Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is Your Character Two-Dimensional?

My brother, in his own comical way, once commented on how annoying it was when he ran into people he knew at public places. He might see someone from church or school at the store and think, "Why are you here? I thought you didn't have a life. You just go to church or school; you're not supposed to do anything else!" Of course, he was joking. Everyone has a life beyond whatever simple title we may know them by... "classmate", "store clerk", "church attender", etc. Even if we can't see the rest of their life, we know it exists. Why? Because no real human is "two-dimensional"! God has gifted each of us with individual traits, talents, personalities, and life situations that are unique from anyone else. Guess what? Your characters shouldn't be two-dimensional, either - or else your readers will have trouble seeing them as real people.

According to, a two-dimensional character is "simple and unexplained". It goes on to say that two-dimensional characters are sometimes okay if they're minor characters (the waiter at a restaurant, someone we pass in the street), but if major characters are 2D, the story will fall flat. Instead, major characters need to be three-dimensional. The website continues to say that three-dimensional characters are "... believable. They appear as credible people who you might know. Like humans, they have flaws and failings. They are individual and also seek to relate to others."

So, how do you make your characters three-dimensional? My personal suggestion is to ask yourself a series of questions about them; comparing them to real people and seeing how they contrast. Here are some examples:

* What does my character fear?

* What are his hopes?

* Does he have a childhood memory that shapes who he is today?

* Does he have any secret talents?

* What is the most important thing in the world to him?

* Who is he closest to?

* Who is his worst enemy?

Do you have any other useful questions that could be added to this list, or other hints for making three-dimensional characters? Please comment your thoughts!