UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF YOUR CHARACTERS

How to Create Three-Dimensional Characters


Fleshing out your characters is one of the most important elements in writing great fiction. Details, such as how your characters look, how they walk and talk, and their idiosyncratic propensities, must be written into your story so that your characters have a three-dimensional quality. But, when it comes to representing characters as living, breathing beings, addressing your character's physical profile is only half the battle. An author must also be sympathetic to a character’s wants and needs. Your sensitivity will round out your characters and will add fullness to your story as well.

Why Do Stories Fall Flat?

            Ever wonder why your stories sometimes fall flat? What’s missing?
Ezra Katz from Wikimedia
 The problem could be, like some parents who work too long and too hard, that you've lost sight of the wants and needs of your children, and by children I mean the characters you've created in your story or novel. They have wants, the same as the little guy who tugs at your pants leg when you’re trying to work on that new story. They have needs, the same as the child you have going off to college.
            Identifying and satisfying the needs and desires of your characters is a significant notion, and something rarely considered by the inexperienced writer.  Lacking this knowledge comes with a heavy price, but high rewards are garnered if you can carry this concept through.
            A writer who has no sympathy and understanding for the human conditions of his characters will have difficulty arousing the sympathy of the reader. This is why even a well-structured story can sometimes lack the sparkle of a successful story. A writer who understands his characters and satisfies their needs ignites a sympathetic response in the reader, which, in turn, results in an emotional bond between author, characters, and reader.

An Example of How to Satisfy the Needs of Your Characters

            Benjamin Percy, a sensitive and poetic writer, is an author who pays attention to his character’s needs. In his short story, “Refresh, Refresh,” a tale about the tragedy of war, the narrator, Josh, and his friend Gordon, are victims whose fathers were plucked from them and sent overseas to fight a battle that no one from their small town of Crow, Oregon truly understands. The boy’s relationship to each other is a key factor in the story.
            “He had had a bad day,” Josh says of Gordon. “And I could tell from the look on his face—the watery eyes, the trembling lips that revealed in quick flashes his buckteeth—that he wanted, he needed, to hit me. So I let him.” There you go, a perfect example of a writer fulfilling the needs of his characters.

            So, pay attention to the needs and desires of your children, both those at home and those in your stories. Fulfill these needs when you can. You’ll be a better parent for it. Oh, and a better writer, too.

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