Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Those Flat Characters

Okay - let's expand our discussion on flat characters. What makes a character "flat?" It can be a matter of opinion. Look how popular the Twilight books are. Bella is a flat character, especially in the beginning. She has no real goals and her conflict isn't that big, either. At least, not for a novel. So, what can a writer do to make sure their main character is not flat? Uninteresting? Three dimensional? The first thing is to give your hero a goal. What does he/she want? What do they *think* they need? Does it make you care? Remember, we are the first readers of our work. What kind of emotions are stirred up when we read our opening paragraph? If you are really honest, you'll know if what you've written is weak and needs some pumping up.

Here's an example of before and after in my WIP, Fairyeater - the first is what I had. The second is what I decided to go with after some feedback.

Mist hovered just above the lake as the sky began to show the violet-pink glow of a new day. Akeela pulled the leather archery glove on her right hand. She sighed, sat on the stump of a tree, examined her bow and waited for the forest to wake up. Hunting was the only escape she had from Krezma’s sharp tongue.

Akeela yanked the leather archery glove on her right hand. She sighed, sat on the stump of a tree, examined her bow and waited for the forest to wake up. Hunting was the only escape she had from Krezma’s sharp tongue and she was sick of both.

Do you see the difference? Now, it's your turn. Give us the first few sentence of your opening paragraph and we'll see what we can do with them.


  1. hi everyone - I've been trying to post a new topic and update you all on the Colorado conference for a couple of weeks now, but blogger keeps giving me a blank page. Am going to try and see what I can do about it. Hang in there with me, okay?

  2. Try using a different browser. Wordpress was doing that to me the other day.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I think that giving a character too much depth right in the beginning is a bad idea, but leaving too much in mystery can be a downfall.

    Jack sat on an empty barrel outside a rowdy tavern. His arms were crossed tightly as he awaited for his drunken father to emerge. His clean pressed robes were dirty from all the places he had been drug to, and all he could hope for was his father to be thrown out early.


    1. HI Russell - you're right about not giving away too much in the beginning.

      Okay, let's look at your paragraph. The first two sentences are terrific. We learn a couple of things about Jack; he's frustrated or angry (the tightly crossed arms), he cares what might happen to his father (he's waiting for his father to come out, even though he knows his father will be drunk).

      The third sentence can be confusing at first read because it would be either Jack's robes that are dirty or his father's robes that are dirty. The previous sentence is talking about the father, so the next sentence is assumed we're continuing talking about Dad. It's an easy fix: Jack's clean, pressed robes ...

      Jack has been dragged around and that gives us another glimpse into his character. The fact he hasn't run away shows us he has scruples, at least right now.

      This is an excellent first paragraph!

  5. I once heard someone say that Bella is like a pair of pants....any girl could put her on and be her. I guess that worked for Stephanie Meyer. Though at times I felt way too close to Bella's mind. During New Moon it was like please please find Edward this girl is driving me crazy with her whining lol :).

    In a way my story has two heroes. Emmanuel, the accidental hero...called to a quest he never expected. Then there's the true hero, the High King, who saves everyone. But the trick is that we only see the High King through Emmanuel's journey. My story is not quite allegory but it does in a way point to the Christian's relationship with the true High King. There are a few characters that only show up in a couple of chapters but they have a memorable effect on Emmanuel. I hate his time with them is so short but he's constantly traveling and only a few people will eventually stay with him. So I worry the most about those characters becoming flat.