Writing Tip – Avoid Flat Stanley

flat stanley

In case you don’t know who Flat Stanley is, he was a project my daughter had to complete in elementary school. She mailed a paper cut out character named Stanley to my sister in Maryland. The poor woman had to take pictures of herself with Stanley at various tourist attractions. Not an easy task in those days without a cell phone, but she soldiered on and Stanley had quite an adventure.

My point in telling you all this? Don’t give your readers a Flat Stanley. Write three dimensional characters. Readers abhor lifeless, dull, and boring . They want to know what makes your character tick. Sprinkle in some background, NOT too much at once, but as your character becomes involved in more situations throughout your plot, reveal things you want your reader to know. Are they afraid of spiders, have OCD, wish they’d never moved to where they live now? Little things make a difference.

You can also accomplish a well-rounded character through your dialogue. You can show (not tell) emotions that make your character real, building their personality for your reader. When your character gets angry, what does he/she do? Stamp their feet, turn purple in the face, scream? Or do they silently brood until they explode. Do they have a laugh like a donkey or wail when they cry? You get the picture.

Another thing to remember…your character needs purpose for their actions. No one is perfect. We all have flaws. A character should be in sync with what’s going on around him/her. Stop and think about your characters’ motivation. What do they want? How are they going to get it? What obstacles will they face on their journey?

Don’t make your reader suffer through a character with no pizzazz and personality. Round them out, make them come alive. Breathe breath into them until they jump out of the book, grab your reader’s hand, and yank them right into the pages!

Flat Stanley has a noble purpose, but not in your novels.

Other writers, how do you make your characters less flat? Please share.


About Kelly Abell

I am a writer, blogger, and graphic artist. My aim for you is to utilize this blog to help you improve your writing skills, and to educate you on the publishing business. If you need help with writing, want to self-publish a book and need advice, or just want to kick a story idea around to see what works best, that's what I'm here for. As I gain knowledge from editors and publishers, I will share that knowledge with you. As writers we should always strive to improve our craft and grow. A day should not pass where you haven't learned or tried something new with your writing. Many thanks to my Night Owl Friend, Lea Ellen Borg for editing my posts! Best to you and all your characters and stories. Write on, my friends...Write on.
This entry was posted in Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s