One Simple Way To Add Dimension To Your Characters (A Guest Post by Annika)7:00 AM
Do you miss me yet, darlings? Don't worry, I've left you in good hands. Our first guest poster of the week is Annika @ Writer and Proud, who happens to be pretty awesome. Give her lots of comments and lots of love for me, if you wouldn't mind. Here she is:
The same principle can be applied to characters. Giving a character dimension means that his personality doesn't look like a cartoon character (flat and unrealistic) but more like a real live person (it has the depth dimension). Giving a character dimension means that he'll have enough sides to his personality that he'll feel real.
A character with only one side (or dimension) gets called things like cliche, cardboard cutout, and flat. None of that is good, obviously, but how to avoid it? What are some ways to add some extra depth to your characters?
Well, there are many ways and I can't cover them all. However, I do have one simple method to share.
Say we have a scale, like so:
At one end of the scale would be a character who is entirely cold to others, tough, unyielding, etc. At the other end would be a character who is entirely warm to others, is easy to emotionally crack, sways easily on opinions, etc. A character will land somewhere on the scale, but if he landed on the very tip of either end he wouldn't feel very real. Because, let's face it: no human being (except perhaps a psychopath) has absolutely nothing in life that could make them soften up a little. Nor does a single human being on the planet not have a single person or thing that could make them show a more sensitive and soft side.
Take Katniss Everdeen. In general, we'd probably place her pretty close to the "tough/cold" end of the scale. She's quite cold to most people, blunt, brave, harsh with some people such as her mother, commanding, and in general not a very soft person.
So what keeps her from feeling as flat as a cartoon?
The answer is that she becomes a softie around her sister Prim.
When Katniss is with Prim, she becomes a nurturer. She tucks Prim's shirt in, uses terms of endearment, comforts Prim from nightmares . . . in other words, the complete opposite of how she treats most people.
Can you see what I'm getting at? Katniss doesn't just stay on one end of that scale. Depending on who she is with, she will occupy completely different ends of the spectrum!
It's like this: with just her tough side shown, she'd feel like this:
|Found here. Not mine.|
Just as there is no question as to which picture looks more lifelike, there is no question that Katniss's multiple sides makes her character feel more realistic.
What I'm getting at is this. If you want to add dimension to your character, show both their tough side and their soft side. In the opening pages of the book demonstrate that they can slide around on the scale a little. Show that they aren't stagnant in their behavior and that they change as the situation changes, just like real people. Do that, and you'll bring your characters to life.
I spoke mostly about being tough and soft, but there are other pairs of opposite traits which you can use to add dimension to a character: bravery and cowardice, emotional expression and poker face, etc. Can you think of any? Can you think of any other characters which have been given dimension using opposite traits?