It’s simple to avoid making shallow characters, and my three best tips are creating believable and realistic backgrounds, embed your characters into the plot and subplots of your story, and focusing on connections and relationships throughout your cast.
Creating characters that resonate with your audience is important to good storytelling, but what components combine to create compelling characters?
3 Tips to Avoid Writing Shallow Characters
Building Believable and Realistic Character Profiles
Developing your characters should be at the forefront of your mind, and manuscript. Most stories focus heavily on character development throughout the first and second acts.
The thing many newer writers forget is that your character’s life doesn’t start at the beginning of your story (unless they’re an infant). Until the start of your story, your character has lived a full life, even if filled with strife and chaos.
They have built relationships, experienced loss, and created a routine around their life and obligations.
This guide is a great go-to for basic character creation. It gets you into the brain of your character, and helps you generate a basic framework for their life before the story starts, which will inevitably help you write their story and their reactions once the story does start.
But what should you do if a character is introduced late in the story? There are several ways to quickly develop a character late in the story, but the route you take is the same. You’ll need to create a believable background story and sprinkle tidbits throughout dialogue and narrative to ensure people get the chance to relate and understand this new character.
Something I often find with late-story characters is that the writer doesn’t take enough time to embed them into the story which can be both frustrating and confusing to the reader.
This is one reason I suggest high consideration when implementing major characters later in a story. What purpose does this new character serve? Can you replace them with another character who’s already ingrained into your story line?
Embed Your Characters into Your Plot and Subplots
You can create as much backstory and detail about your characters as you want, but if you don’t use that information to embed them into your story line then isn’t it all for naught? What’s the point of taking all that time to add detail and create depth if you don’t end up using it in your story?
The thing about creating complete characters is that you have a plethora of information to pull from. Sprinkling general dialogue with a quick and relevant story from when your character was a child or adding tidbits about family troubles or personal style, can help create a 3-dimensional character your readers can relate to.
While I’m not suggesting you bog your manuscript with a bunch of unnecessary clutter, you should have an idea of who your characters are, what their deepest desires are, and what’s stopping them from accomplishing their goals.
Use their backstory and current desires to create engaged characters that push the story from scene to scene. Not characters who float around while things happen to them.
By creating active characters who engage with your plot and subplots, you aren’t leaving your reader guessing what their purpose is in the story. Passive characters do just the opposite, by creating questions and confusion instead of assured decisiveness.
Focus on Connections and Relationships in Your Character Cast
The last of my go-to tips for avoiding shallow characters is to focus on the connections and relationships built within your character cast.
Everyone has relationships. They might be wonderful and lovely, hate-fueled, or incorrect. But every person has built some sort of a connection with the people in their lives and those connections deepen with every exchange, regardless of if that exchange was positive or negative.
By focusing on these connections, you’re encouraging your readers to engage with each character, both individually and as they relate to the overall story. You’re helping them understand and relate to your characters, which builds a relationship between reader and character.
By creating truly genuine characters, we’re able to write a remarkably memorable story for our readers to enjoy. Flat or caricatured characters aren’t relatable and tend to annoy readers more then draw them in to your story.