Lesson 2 - Character Dimension
So, now we talk about ways to add dimension to your character. The book Creating Fiction by Julie Checkoway floats the iceberg theory, which is actually a pretty apt description of what you want to create with your character. The theory is that each character is an iceberg. Thereís a little bit that the reader sees on the surface, but the bulk of the character lies beneath the surface, and what the author has to do is to make the reader believe in all that stuff that is sitting under water and out of sight.
In order to do this, use dialog, thoughts, and actions to show the depth. Also, as an author, itís important for you to carry all this info in your head.
Some writers will do interviews, and character sheets. When I get to a point where I donít think my character is fully realized, I pull out my well-thumbed copy of The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman. The book has two great chapters on the life of your character. It asks questions about religion and family history. The way the character dresses, the way the character handles money, etc. If I donít know exactly what Iím looking for in my character (i.e. I donít know whatís missing), I run through the questions and write it all out. Somewhere during the process, I get 2-3 aha moments where I see great opportunities for the story.
Itís really important to not shortchange the process, and find whatever process will work best for you. If you feel like your character is flat, or if you donít know them, chances are, you donít.
So, now youíve done some work, but you feel the character is boring. What to do? Use a little bit of exaggeration to make them interesting. Pick one trait or habit they have, and play it up. Iíve written a heroine who is a card-shark and loves to gamble. Iíve written a heroine who was uber-competitive and sneezed every time she lost. Iíve written a hero who was obsessed with dragons and dragon lore. Readers are looking for characters who feel real, but who are also larger than life.
When creating a character, donít be afraid to go against type. Twist a character, twist a stereotype. Say youíre writing a librarian. Whatís the librarian stereotype? Quiet, bossy, wears glasses, and usually has a stash of well-hidden sexy underwear. So what to do? Write a librarian who is loud and brash. Thereís a great secondary librarian character in the movie foul play. I forget her name (Stella?) but sheís loud and very New York and carries brass knuckles and mace in her pace.
So, hereís the exercise, think of a stereotype and tell me how you would twist it?