Help! My character is flat

Advice on Character Development

by Jennifer Heins

August, 2017

Sometimes when we write, the characters that trot forth from our minds are the most compelling, complex, and downright cool people we could ever think of. Other times, the plot comes pouring forth while the character limps behind. In the end, we all run into snafus with the characters we write. Whether its a boulder-sized roadblock or a speed bump, creating character breakdowns will help you solidify who your character is and the choices they make in your story. 

Firstly, what does it mean to have a 'flat' character? It means the character is one-dimensional or perhaps cliche. Maybe the character plays the role of the unloving stepfather but never shows a tender side or how smart he can be. Everyone has good and bad qualities, shallow and deep. These should be reflected in your character's development. 

A great way to get to know the complexities of your character is to do a character breakdown. Ask yourself what the character's goals are. What are their hobbies? Are they predominately aggressive and vocal or shy and submissive? How would they react to deception? Success? 

If you like, you can download this breakdown sheet below and take  a few minutes to write out information about your character. Even if it doesn't pertain overtly to your story, knowing this information will give you a deeper sense of who your character is. This will inform your writing and lead you places you may not expect. 

Looking for a faster more light-hearted approach? Take a minute to answer these fun questions. They will challenge what you already know of your character. 

What kind of sandwich would your character make?

What would he/she do with 1 million dollars?

If he/she could take a vacation anywhere, where would they go? 

If a stranger told your character he/she was beautiful, how would they react? 

How would your character react if their car broke down? 

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