Adding Depth To A Flat Character
Had I attempted to publish some of my very first stories, I suspect I’d be getting a whole heck of a lot of negative reviews. Not because the plot wasn’t juicy enough or the grammar sucked, but because my characters were about as lively as nuns at a wet t-shirt contest.
I had this fear that if I gave them vices, the reader would be turned off and quite possibly have me committed. So I wrote these perfect people in perfect lives that stumble upon a road bump. No real tension or conflict going on here. Just existing. This wasn’t really writing, not to me at least, because I was holding back a little bit. Okay, a lot. The truth was, these characters had a whole hell of a lot going on inside my head—drug abuse, depression, and language that would make the Osbournes blush—but I tamped them down and refused to let those pieces be a part of their personality. Why? Because I thought my characters and their exciting adventures would stand on their own and leave the reader feeling satisfied in spite of their wholesome selves.
Aside from the obvious, one of the bigger reasons why this was such a monumental writing fail, is the fact that I was lying to myself while the whole time. These weren’t the same people chattering inside my head.
When I crack a book open, I’m looking for danger, conflict, and only resolution at the end of a harrowing journey. I want characters that are so extreme from what I already know, that they grab me and pull me under, leaving me breathless while I refuse to come up for air until I KNOW that something is going to go right for them. In romance, it’s a given that someone’s going to end up happy in the end, so the journey in between sure as hell better offer some surprises that make me forget the forthcoming pink bow, sealed with a kiss.
The more extreme a character, the more thrilling the conflict, the more satisfying the resolution. So these days when I write, I try not to hold anything back and let the personality inside my head unfurl into the story as it was meant to.