Posted by: writerjames | December 28, 2009

Creating 3-D Characters

Hollywood has been trying for years to perfect the three dimensional movie experience, and with recent advancements in technology, 3-D is better than ever before.

When creating characters, it is also important to make them 3-D, meaning characters so real that they jump off the page at the reader.

There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, but what I like to do is create a bit of a backstory.  When I create a character, I don’t exactly give a lot of physical detail, because I like the reader to paint that picture themselves.  What I do try to do is give them a backstory that comes out here and there in the character’s emotions, dialogue and action.  Though I never reveal a lot of the backstory for some of my characters, I always keep it in mind, and it helps to shape how that character behaves and speaks.

Another important part of creating a 3-D character is allowing the character to evolve as the story progresses.  I love a story where I have a first impression of a character, but somewhere along the line, they do something that surprises me.  Sometimes, it’s a good guy who does something bad, sometimes it’s a bad guy who does something heroic.

A good example of this is the movie the Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis.  I love the way the characters in that film don’t always do what you expect them to do.  For example, Wes Studi as Magua spends the entire movie trying to kill the daughters of Colonel Munro, but his council instructs him not to.  Later, after a battle, one of the sisters eases toward the edge of a cliff.  Instead of taking the opportunity to push her to commit suicide, he beckons her back.  Another character in the Last of the Mohicans, Duncan, spends the movie trying to kill Hawkeye so he can take Cora from her.  In the end, though, he sacrifices his own life so Hawkeye and Cora can escape.  It is this kind of character development that gives a story more punch.

In my book, the Nature of Sand, the main character spends his youth despising his older brother, a football playing brute who doesn’t understand or care for his little brother.  When the story jumps forward twelve years and the brothers meet again, they have both grown and changed, and their relationship changes as well.  It would have been easy to keep the characters locked into a mold, but because they’ve developed into different men, the story is much better and more real.

Try to keep in mind that people change in real life, so they should change on paper.  Avoid flatness as much as possible in your writing, and your readers will appreciate it.



  1. Thanks James. Nice addition to your page. Keep blogging!

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