Are your characters cardboard?

Still chatting about Donald Maass and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Thought I forgot, didn’t you?

This week it’s multi-dimensional characters. Maass uses the Artemis Fowl novels to illustrate his point. Even though I haven’t read the books, I can see where this is an excellent example. The character certainly sounds like one that could easily have been a stereotypical villan, but instead has endeared himself to tons of kids. Why is this?

According to Maass, Fowl is multi-dimensional. Sure he is smart and has a diabolical goal, but he also shows a soft side that surprises even the character himself.

To achieve this, Maass suggests you first nail down your character’s “defining quality.” If you use Plot Doctor or similar plotting tools, you have probably already done this. It’s the one thing that would first pop to mind when describing this character. Second, identify the opposite of the quality. To add a dimension, simply write a scene where he/she exhibits this opposite quality. To add more dimensions keep going. Pick a secondary quailty then the opposite of it and so on, and so on.

If you try this let me know how it works for you. I haven’t ever sat down and purposely added something like this, but I do think a lot of my characters exhibit conflicting characteristics. I don’t always feel good about it either. It makes the little devils harder to control.

Keep writing. :)

One Responseto “Are your characters cardboard?”

  1. Marty K says:

    You’re right, a lot of the plotting software takes this angle. When I was coaching basketball, I used to tell my girls, “Thirty days to a new habit.” Tools like this may seem forced at first, but then you’ll be doing it subconsciously. Good stuff.