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.