1. cobaltblue
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    cobaltblue Member

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    Three dimensional characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cobaltblue, Dec 2, 2011.

    How do you know when your character is three dimensional enough? What test do you apply to determine that your character is realistic, believable, like-able?
    I like my characters because I know them pretty well, I'm just not sure how they are coming across to The Reader, how do I check that the essence of these people is really coming through in the story I am writing?

    Blue
     
  2. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    You mean two-dimensional? Is there a third dimension? O:

    As far as I know, there's no specific "test" to put your characters through to see if they're developed enough. Since characters are representations are people, whether they're realistic or not can depend on a lot of things - there are a lot of different kinds of people in the world, and they're all at least fairly complex.

    Is there anything specific you'd like help with, when it comes to character development? Do you feel your characters might be too generic, or too over-the-top? It'd be easier to offer advice if you narrowed your question down a bit.
     
  3. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    There is indeed a third dimension. A two dimensional character would be flat and uninteresting. Aside from that I agree, there is no specific test to put characters through. Just pay attention to how people interact IRL and see if your characters match up.
     
  4. cobaltblue
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    cobaltblue Member

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    I suppose what I mean is, how do you create your characters to ensure they come across as nicely three dimensional? Yes there are three dimensions (length, width and depth) two dimensional meaning they are flat on the page.. with no substance, three dimensional meaning they have depth.

    I've noticed lots of writers on here detailing their planning stages and a few have mentioned working on developing the characters in their stories following certain rules... sometimes I write out notes to guide my story in the right direction, but I've never sat and wrote out descriptions of my characters to check that their actions match their personality types (or whatever).. and now I find I am doubting that my characters are good enough, interesting enough, real enough.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's probably not helpful to think in terms of the number of "dimensions" a character has. Just think in terms of making a character seem like a realistic, believable human being, who has believable human reactions to situations.

    And be aware that most people in real life, most of the time, don't show all aspects of their personalities. In day-to-day life, we fall into habits of behavior that fit our repetitive jobs, our stable relationships, etc. When our days are more-or-less the same, our behavior doesn't vary much, doesn't display all aspects of us much. Your characters will display more of their personalities when confronted with unusual situations, even crisis situations. For example, you might have an irresponsible, unreliable drug-addict character who suddenly exhibits a certain amount of maturity and depth when someone gives him a puppy. Make him responsible for another life and he may show aspects of his character that nobody knew were there. Or you might have a hardass military drill sergeant character who is always in control of all aspects of his and everyone else's lives, but who falls apart completely when his wife leaves him for another guy. When he finds out he's NOT in complete control, he can't handle it, and may descend into alcoholism or something like that.

    I know those are pretty obvious examples. My point is that what you may think of as a one- or two-dimensional character may display more dimensions (again, I don't like that metaphor, but it's what we started with here) when confronted with situations that are unusual for him.
     
  6. BookWeaver
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    BookWeaver New Member

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    Confession: This is something that I've struggled with in the past (and the present to be entirely honest), so I can totally relate to your concerns. And I also agree with a lot of the feedback here. I can't think of a test that can accurately gauge a character's realism in the eyes of readers. Of course, it can help to get feedback from readers if you get stuck on something. That's always an option, and I can offer a few writing strategies that I use to develop characters. They may or may not be relevant to you, so feel free to do with them as you'd like.

    General questions: (These are questions that I might ask myself in the early stages of a character's development, mostly to acquaint myself with them.)
    1. Does your character have a past? (How will this person's past affect his or her behavior? For example: If the character was traumatized in a fire, how might he or she react to an unexpected burst of flame? --The answer to this question will also depend on the character's personality and how he or she reacts to traumatic events.)
    2. Does the character have any distinct features? (What do these features say about the personality/nature of the character? How can you use them as a subtle effect to imply things to your readers without necessarily explaining everything explicitly?)
    3. Does your character have a distinct personality? (This ties into the first question because the two things often reflect upon each other. Personality may be partially ingrained and partially determined by experience.)

    And here are some questions to consider as you're developing the character in the actual text of a draft: (You can use the first three questions to help answer these.)
    1. How does your character speak? Is he/she a chatterbox or a strong silent type? (Try to stay consistent here. When your character does something "out of character" it can imply something about the character to the readers.)
    2. What kind of body language does your character have? (This can be very important. Body language can say a lot about a character and the setting or story circumstances. Mix it up with the dialogue to emphasize traits and add to the story. It can bring out personalities and make things feel much more realistic.)

    This post is getting lengthy, so I'll stop there. It's good that you feel comfortable with the characters in your head, though. That's a good sign, in my opinion. I hope these questions are somewhat useful to you, and I wish you luck in your project. :)
     
  7. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you tried simply showing your work to someone and asking for their opinion on your character? It was through sharing my work with others that I found out that creating 3D characters is one of my strengths. :)
     
  8. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    "Test" and "3D enough" implies that the depth of a character is some kind of objective, measurable trait, when in reality people are essentially subjective. That said, other subjective people subjectively evaluating your subjective characters is probably the best means of gaining subjective insight into what the proverbial reader would think - subjectively, of course...
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with the above posters, letting people you trust reading your work is probably the best test you can find.
     
  10. je33ie
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    je33ie Member

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    But on the other hand, don't try to over-describe your characters. When I'm reading books I like to be able to fill in the gaps with my imagination.
     
  11. Ixloriana
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    Ixloriana Member

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    I think "three-dimensional" is a good way to put it. :D Linda Edelstein said, "Character is like looking at a box I hold up in front of your eyes. You clearly see the side facing you. You can know everything there is to know about that side -- but you are naïve if you think that one side is all there is."

    Minstrel put it best: put a person in a unique situation, and their behavior will change. If you put a character into a different situation, it will show a different side of them. It doesn't have to be something dramatic, though. It can be as simple as showing a character that's always at work on his day off.

    If I'm not sure I know a character well enough, I ask, "Why is this character doing this?" If I can't give a good answer, I keep digging until I do. Keep asking why.
    • What is the character's goal? This is what the character consciously wants. If you asked him, "What do you want?" this is probably what he'd tell you.
    • What is the character's motivation? This is the thing that drives the character; something that the character may not even be aware of.
    • How does the character see the world? Is it black and white? More of one than the other?
    • How does the character see himself? Does he believe he's doing what is right? Does he know he's doing wrong, and do it anyway, and why?
    • How many personality traits can I list that describe this character? If it's only one or two (no synonyms!) the character is probably flat. (And where are these traits, on a scale from normal to extreme?)
    ...etc.

    Make a list of the things that the character does throughout the story, and ask yourself what each of those actions shows about your character.

    If you're really desperate to show your character to your readers, you can work the other way around. Make a list of the character's important traits and brainstorm scenes that could show off these traits.
     

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