If you’d have asked me what a three dimensional character was a few years ago, I would have just said that it was a character that looked blurry without those special glasses. Everyone goes on about making your characters “three dimensional”, but few actually delve into what this entails. Never fear, Blogoleptics, for I am here to shed a little light on the subject.
Most dictionaries will tell you that “three dimensional” is synonymous with “fully developed“. It essentially means that they come alive in a realistic and distinctive way, as if they were a real person. Which is all very well to say, until you realise that you’re working with ink and paper, and condensing a real person onto those pages is difficult. Not to mention legally questionable.
Once you have your basic character planning, it’s time to think about it in more depth. Lydia mentioned backstory, which is where you start to really get under a character’s skin. Where has your character come from? What are the major experiences in their life that have shaped them? Is any of this yet to be dealt with? Their life doesn’t start the second they appear on the page, and everything preceding this won’t just disappear.
Just as they have a past, they have a future. What is their goal for this future? Why is it important to them? How are they working towards it? What are their obstacles? This is where a reader can really engage with a character, and want to find out if they succeed.
Three dimensional characters are always lacking something. Whether it’s a trait or a physical item, there’s something they’re missing to get closer to their goal. What is it they’re lacking? How will it help? Do they even realise what it is yet?
Lacking something won’t be their only weakness. No character is perfect, and whether it’s addiction or self deprication or ignorance or all of the above, there’s going to be something wrong with them. What is it? Why are they like this? Are they able to overcome it?
They also want things outside of the goal, whether it’s good for them or not. What else do they want? Why? Would it do them harm or good?
What you see is usually not what you get. The best characters have secrets, parts of them that they hide away. Their whole personality could even be a front. What are their secrets? Why have they kept them? Who knows them? Keeping these secrets, but hinting at them, helps create mystery around your character.
Finally, no character remains the same throughout a story. Their development isn’t over the second they appear on the page; everyone still has growing to do. How will they change over the course of the story? Is this for better or worse? Why do they change?
Good luck, Blogoleptics! Check back soon for my (slightly insane) extended character planning resources.