Entire libraries could be filled with the books and articles written by much better writers than I on how to develop characters in your book. And no doubt as I go through this some equivocation will occur with the terms I’m using. Some experts may think I’m misdiscribing one thing, or that one is not relevant. I do not claim to be presenting the definitive work on the subject, so cut me a break.
I’m also not going to tell you how to decide what types of personalities to give to your characters. Only you know your stories, and hopefully you have an idea of what types of personalities you envision experiencing your story.
What I am going to give you is a general overview of the four major types of characters: Flat, Round, Static, and Dynamic.
Flat or Round?
Flat Characters – These characters are exactly what you’re probably thinking. They are two dimensional unimportant characters. They are “flat” because you know very little about them. They are background noise to everything important that’s happening in the foreground. Most don’t even get names. You see them in movie credits as “Biker #1” or “Skinny Waiter”. The reader never learns anything about flat characters other than the fact that they exist…and maybe a little about what they look like or what they happen to be doing that moment in the scene.
Round Characters – These characters are the exact opposite of flat characters. They have a third dimension to their development. The reader knows their names, background, likes, dislikes, or hobbies…anything necessary to make the character a real person. They get full, complicated lives in the mind of the reader. They are “fully developed.”
Static or Dynamic?
Static Characters – The word “static” means “unchanging.” Simply put, a static character is a character that doesn’t change. They begin their involvement with the story and end their involvement in exactly the same life circumstance and attitude. What you see at the beginning is the same as what you see at the end. They can become an anchor and constant with which to judge the development of other characters.
Static characters can be either flat or round. But by definition all flat characters must be static.
Dynamic Characters – Just as “static” means “unchanging”, the word “dynamic” means “changing.” Dynamic characters are characters who change throughout the story. They learn and grow. Their lives change. Their attitudes change. What they are to the story in the beginning is not what they are in the end, for good or bad.
By definition all dynamic characters must be round characters.
Why is this important?
As you build your cast of characters, you need to be aware of what of these four roles each character will play. Obviously most of your main characters will be dynamic. But if you don’t identify static characters or flat characters, you may fall into the trap of spending too much time developing the wrong characters.
Is this supposed to be a flat background character? Don’t waste time giving us detailed information about them.
Are they important to the story? Make sure you at least round the character a little.
Should this character be static? Don’t be tempted to give them something to grow over, because it’ll take away from the main story. Maybe consider writing a spin-off.
Of course, your main character is a dynamic character. Don’t forget to give them all the necessary details to have a nice life. And don’t forget to screw up their life so that they can learn something.
Now build your character
After you’ve determined what kind of character you need to build, here are some things to do to build the character. Keep in mind, not every type above needs you to create all of these details. But the more details you write about your character the better you know your character. Create a character profile with the following:
Write your character’s basic description. Age. Race. Gender. Height. Weight. Hair. Eyes. Physical strength. Fashion sense. Intelligence level or lack of. Assertiveness. Intuition. Special skills or lack of. Talents. Finances. Parents. Siblings. Pets.
Answer these life/personality questions:
What is your character most afraid of in life?
What is your character’s dreams and desires in life?
What is your character strongest at?
What is your character weakest at?
What is your character most proud of in their life?
What are they most ashamed of?
When was the first time they were truly disappointed?
When was the first time they were truly excited?
What do they love the most?
What do they hate the most?
What makes your character happy?
What is something other characters might think weird about them?
Why is your character involved in the story? Why does he/she care?
What does your character have to lose in the story?
What does your character have to gain?
What makes your character the right person to solve the problem?
What makes this character likely to fail regardless how they try?
How does this character need to change in order to succeed?
Finally, to understand your character’s role in the story, retell the story (at least in summary form) from that character’s point of view. Leave out info they don’t know. Tell info only they know. Remember, you’re writing THEIR story. And if you’re creating the villain, remember villains are the heroes of their own story. So write the villain’s POV as if they’re the hero.
——–> Continue to Next Article – Five Stage Plot
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