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Monday Craft Tips #9: How to create a rounded character

Did you know that the best way to create a WellRoundedCharacterwell-rounded character is to vary the status of that character from scene to scene? In some scenes give your character a more dominant role, where they call the shots. In other scenes, give that character a role where they have to kow-tow to someone higher up in the pecking order.

Each minor character is in the story to bring out different traits of the main characters. Dimensionality, depth and complexity are all brought out by showing subtle shifts in your character’s status as he interacts with the other players.

Readers will bond with protagonists who have flaws, and so you can show that by putting them in these different situations, where they have to negotiate this dominance issue, and seeing how they react.

Lastly, watch your choice of words. Do NOT have your protagonist quiver, shriek, screech or do anything that conveys a lower status than the antagonist or villain.

As your story builds toward its climax, the status of both your hero and your villain will also rise. Status has more to do with actions than motives, so even though the hero and villain have completely different agendas, you can raise the status of either one by giving him more self-control, courage or determination.

Stillness is power, so if you need to make your villain more imposing, try slowing him down. Show readers that he’s in no hurry to commit his evil deed—he has such high status that he can walk slowly and still catch that person who is trying to escape.

Villains become less frightening when they’re self-congratulatory or cocky. If a villain needs to prove himself, he becomes insecure and his status is lowered. Sadistic, chortling, hand-wringing villains aren’t nearly as unnerving as calm, relentless ones. Finally, let your protagonist enter the final showdown at a disadvantage, because an underdog who overcomes impossible odds is a hero we can believe in.

Have a wonderful week!


Image is taken from artsalive.lskysd.ca

This piece first appeared in the September newsletter. If you would like to read more such tips, or hear about how my progress on THWARTED QUEEN is going, please sign up for the newsletter by clicking on the appropriate link to the right.

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