Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to Create a Fictional Three Dimensional Character

In any good novel or short story the main character (protagonist) must be someone with which readers can identify. Most of you heard the term 'cardboard character' before. Simply put, this describes a character with two dimensions and not much depth. A well rounded character is introduced to the reader as a person with a clear physical appearance, social background and emotional expectations.

How to create such a character? According to James Frey in his book How to write a damn good novel the explanation is simple. Get to know your character inside out. Ask questions like, how does the character look (physical appearance), where did he grow up and what circumstances formed him to be the man he is today? (social background), what work does he do and why, what is his current circumstances. In short, the writer must know everything about his character before he can attempt to introduce him to the reader.

A starting point is to create a list of everything one would like to know about a person. Pose questions like:

  1. What is your name?
  2. How old are you?
  3. What color is your hair, eyes?
  4. Where did you grow UP?
  5. Who were your parents?
  6. Do you have any siblings?
  7. What is your relationship with your siblings?
  8. What work do you do?
  9. Why did you choose to do this work?

And so on.

Try to make the list as extensive as possible and the character will come to life. A final step must be to write a diary in the voice of the character. Every person has unique traits and mannerisms in speech and body language. Writing in the voice of the character will enable the writer to get inside the head of the character which will translate better during the writing process.

This is not an exhaustive list of how to develop a well rounded character and each writer must find their own way. Above all...Keep writing.

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