Four Dimensions: Character Analysis Beyond 3d Characters

Four dimensions like four eyes give 3d characters added depth.Fleshing out characters (giving 3d characters four dimensions) is one of my favorite aspects of writing a story, perhaps more than weaving the plot. The human mind is complex, and in a story, every character is an outstanding individual, with their own story, dreams, hopes and fears. The possibilities are limitless, and I could spend all day uncovering the characters’ motivations, ideals, and inner workings.

Once the plot gets going, even complex 3d characters get busy with what’s going on around them, and are in danger of losing their personality quirks. When I’m writing through an exciting scene, I often forget that the characters wouldn’t act the way I would act. I have to go back and evaluate the scene, and whether they are acting true to character.

When that happens, I look over four dimensions of a character’s personality, to see if they are acting consistently throughout the story. These four dimensions can be determined at the beginning of a story, or infused at any point in time thereafter to bring out the best in your heroes.

Thoughts: The Hero’s Conscious Awareness

Discover through character analysis the four dimensions of your characters.Your characters each have their own perspective on the world. Their upbringing, education level, and current situation shape their thoughts and consequently their actions. A well-to-do, college-educated attorney will think about the world far differently than an abused high school dropout. They will be concerned about different things, have a particular sense of right and wrong, and analyze problems in unique ways. They will also hold themselves and their companions to separate standards, praising and criticizing under various circumstances.

The most common way we look at an individual’s thoughts today is through left brain, right brain analysis. In general, characters who are left brained think logically and rationally, working through a situation step-by-step to its conclusion. Right brained folks look at life on a grander scale, working holistically and creatively to solve problems. You can really flesh out a character’s thought patterns by figuring out if she’s left or right brained, and how she approaches critical thinking.

Feelings: What His Heart Wants

In direct opposition at times to the hero’s thought processes are his emotional reactions to the world. Before his brain gets a chance to analyze, his heart will express his initial reaction to external stimuli. Your protagonist will obviously have feelings about all the other characters he meets, whether they are good, bad, or indifferent feelings. This will color his actions in how much he interacts with others, and in what ways.

However, people have feelings about everything in their lives, not just other humans. She may feel that she is on the wrong course of action, even when she cannot think of a reason why this is so. Known as gut reactions, following your intuition, or even psychic awareness, these feelings crop up consistently throughout our lives. Your character may feel like wearing a red shirt today, even though her blue shirt is clean too. She may despise her best friend’s brother, even though she just met him and knows nothing about him. These are all human feelings that can take your story and characters down exciting new paths.

Actions: How He Presents Himself to the World

Your protagonist shapes his world and his story via his actions, how he interacts with other people and his environment. Actions reveal a lot about a person’s character, illuminating his thoughts and feelings with a tip of his hat. If your character doesn’t act, he doesn’t progress through the story, and will have to be helped along by his companions.

Actions are the home of “show, don’t tell”, where your heroine can really stand out from the crowd. If she pulls over to help an injured animal along the side of the road, she will come across as compassionate and nurturing, even if no one else in the story recognizes that fact. If she stands firmly against every obstacle in her path, readers will come to the conclusion that she is headstrong, determined, and perhaps a little ruthless. Actions really do speak louder than words, amongst your characters and to your readers as well.

Relations: How He Interacts with Others

Your hero does not live in a vacuum. He has to deal with other people, and all of the things that we do in our daily lives. Work, home, school, society, religion, health, goals, and values shape your character continuously. He has to relate to and react to all of these environmental influences on a daily basis, with certain aspects taking precedence depending on the day’s events.

How your character relates to her environment can provide new insights you may not have considered. If your protagonist is a diligent worker, yet lives in a messy home, she obviously has different values about what is acceptable in different settings. At the beginning of the story, she may be a self-proclaimed atheist, yet is presented with many challenges to her faith throughout the story arc. Whether she lets herself relate to those challenges, or remains unchanged, will give readers a new perspective on her personality.

These four dimensions of a character’s personality will give you unlimited characterization ideas and plot possibilities. Your readers will easily relate when the characters think, feel, act, and relate to the world in ways that we all do each day. When your heroine seems dull, go over these four dimensions and see if she has the opportunity to show of her amazing self!

How do you ensure that your characters are fleshed out and believable? To what standard do you hold them accountable? What tricks do you use to bring out the best in your heroes?

Photo Credit: Four Eyes by Carulmare
Photo Credit: Mask by Cliff1066tm

Character Birthdays: Happy Birthday, Heros and Heroines

Happy Birthday Cake for Heroes, Heroines, and CharactersDo you know your when to wish your characters a happy birthday? Many writers neglect the most important day of their protagonist’s life. After all, if she was not born into your imaginary world, you wouldn’t be able to tell her story now. But there are stronger writing issues to consider when deciding your male and female characters celebrate their birthday.

Happy 29th, Again

What is your character’s attitude toward her birthday, and her age? Does she dread every passing year, or does she celebrate with a blow-out party that includes everyone she’s met in her life? When are the birthday’s of your character’s family? If you don’t know, you are missing out on a key area of characterization that you could explore.

More importantly, you may miss her birthday all together! If her birthday falls right into the middle of your story, your character wouldn’t completely forget. At the very least, she would comment to herself about how she is far too busy to go out with her friends this year. Perhaps she’ll miss visiting her parents, because she has now moved halfway across the country to start her new job. Are your character’s kids celebrating their birthdays with a crisis filled birthday party? Her new love interest may forget, and schedule his monthly golf game on the birthday weekend she expected him to take her to his beach side villa. Unless you know, your characters will never age, and gain the wisdom that comes with reflecting over the course of their lives so far.

What’s Your Sign?

Another consideration is that you or your characters may have an interest in exploring what their birthday stands for, in the universal scheme of things. Astrology and Numerology use a person’s birthday to determine their personality traits, and the possible issues they might have to deal with throughout their lives. If you are struggling to flesh out a character, you can look up their birthday, and discover how they might act in their relationships, careers, and home lives. If you don’t like what the results turn up, you can change their birthday to a different sign, and start over. Even if you don’t care about such things, your young college student heroine might read her horoscope every morning, and you ought to have an idea what it would say.

Other uses for birthdays include exploring what happened on that day in history. If your historical hero was born on the day the Civil War started, he would have a different upbringing than someone whose parents raised him during the Great Depression. Many websites and books have such “Day in the Life” descriptions, or you could scan old newspapers near your character’s real world hometown. Even less famous events could play into your character’s life, such as if she were born on the same day the water tower fell and flooded her home.

Planning For Other Character’s Birthdays

Even if your story covers a short amount of time, it is wise to know when all of your characters are born, not just your protagonist. She may be planning a surprise party for her best friend, when she suddenly loses her job and can’t afford to do so anymore. Your antagonist may decide to cause havoc on his birthday every year, because local bullies wrecked his 18th birthday party.

Birthdays are a great rite of passage that everyone goes through each year. It marks new growth, beginnings, and a chance to start life with a clean slate. Your characters could use these same milestones, to take your story in new and unexpected directions.

What do birthdays mean to you, and your stories? Have you explored how your characters react to growing a year older?

Editor’s Note: Know another birthday you shouldn’t forget? Writer’s Round-About! We’re turning 3 this month so come and win some prizes at our birthday bash.

Image credit: Dan Taylor

The Casting Couch for Character Development

Jessica Alba as Max in Dark Angel

Who Do You Want To Act The Role Of Your Protagonist?

An effective way to increase the connection you have to your characters is to sit on the casting couch. There are thousands of talented actors who could be cast into the role of your protagonist. Who would be their ideal counter and play the role of your antagonist? You could even select your supporting cast and run the credits through your mind.

Jessica Alba is going to play the lead role when they turn my current work-in-progress into a movie. Well, in a perfect world she would. Of course I’m sure she’ll love the script. It’s not finished yet but it’s going to be fantastic and it’ll be exactly what she’d want to do next. I picture it; I visualize and see her eagerness and anticipation. She knows the role is right for her and she’s looking forward to spending months in this characters skin.

Who will star in the book-to-movie adaptation of your novel?

As our characters develop during the writing process they grow in our mind. They start off as simple sketches. Insubstantial figments that act on strange whimsy. As we flesh out these strange creatures we discover personality, history, motivation, and depth. In time they take on a life of their own. We hear their voices in our heads and they begin to push the story rather than being resistant followers to our commands.

Visualizing these stars acting out your book can help you delve into character and story. With an actor in mind scenes become almost movie-like in the mind’s eye. As I write a scene I see Jessica Alba as my protagonist. She becomes my character. She mirrors her spunk and fire. Her dark hair and eyes reflect the sense of disturbed darkness within my character. I see the scene unfold as if I were watching in high-definition and surround sound.

Could Paul Walker be my next book's leading man?I haven’t cast my leading man yet. I’m considering Paul Walker but keeping my options open until someone feels “just right”. I find my hero much more difficult not only to picture in my mind’s eye but to feel and know. He’s still fragmented. I can’t “get” him. Perhaps that is why I haven’t been able to cast him. If I could find the perfect actor to play his part would I find myself more connected and attached. Who is this man and if any actor could play his part who would I choose?

Who would you cast in the movie of your novel? Does having your star in mind influence your writing and your sense of connection to your characters?

Pep Talk No. 16 – Welcoming Your Demons

Recently on Writer’s Round-About I talked about inner demons. Those nasty creatures that sit on our shoulder snarling negative propaganda about us and our writing. Well, they certainly sit on my shoulder but I’m sure there is a little demon with varied degree of power for each of us. Who is your little demon? Do you have just one or many?

Welcome Your Demons: Inner and OuterGeorge Singleton has a fantastic little pep-talk, number 16, in his book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds:

If it is true that the audience members applaud as a maestro takes the stage, or when an actor emerges from the wings, because they wish to rid the venue from spirits and demons, then please make sure that you never enter your writing space while clapping. In fiction writing, it may be best to have as many specters and demons perched in the rafters as possible.

What do you think George meant?



How Can Our Demons Help Us?

Demons, inner or otherwise, gain power through fear and intimidation. Their ability to scare creates emotional and sometimes physical reactions. Sometimes, fear hinders us, freezing us in place, but fear is also a natural and positive response.

Fear can cause an adrenaline release. Adrenaline lets us move faster, think faster, act faster. It speeds our responses, heightens our senses, and energizes our endorphins. By embracing the fear these demons create we can bring emotion onto the page and we are more likely to feel the emotion coming off the page as we write. It helps us develop the right tone and depth and gives us a positive boost in motivation and momentum.

Our demons also force us to be cautious. To examine options, evaluate choices. While this may be more hindrance than help in the first stages of writing, welcoming our demons in the editing stage is a must. It is their voice that helps us meticulously comb our manuscript for errors and inconsistencies.

Other Demons To Consider

Our inner demons are not the only ones who play a role in our writing. These demons are a creation of the mind. They are our brains way of compartmentalizing our fears and insecurities. Our ability to create inner demons is a sign of fertile imagination and creativity. These demons are not the only ones who accompany us during the writing process.

Your protagonists must have demons of their own. They can be real or imagined, inner demons, or physical demons. Readers tend to associate best with well-rounded, balanced, characters. Characters need to have flaws and weaknesses. They need to have room to grow. It is normal for characters to face fears of their own.

More literally they also have the demonic aspects of their mirror, the antagonist. The antagonist has demons also, and can be the dark element of the story, a demon in his own right.

Can you see the demons and specters that haunt the rafters of your writing place? What influence do they have on your work? How do they help you? Answer these questions in the comments!

Character: Live Another Life? [MEME]

Actress: Jessica AlbaIf you could be one character from a comic book, fiction series, or anime, who would you be, and why?

The novel I’m currently writing figures a strong female lead, Tori. She’s gritty, determined, and independant. That’s one of the reasons it’s so hard for her to learn to accept an inner darkness within her, and the help of her guardian angel.

When I watch the television series, Dark Angel, I feel a real tug to the main character, Max (Jessica Alba). Like Tori, she’s gritty, determined, and independant. She’s the kind of woman who can take care of herself and has learnt that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.

I’d love to have the kind of empowering confidence that Max (and Tori) have. They’ve got a core belief in themselves and their right to be the person they are. There are people in their lives they care about but it is on terms that maintain a freedom.

If you could be a character you’ve read about, or written about, who would you be and why? Do you find yourself writing characters you wish you were, or who echo yourself in some way?

What do you read or watch when you want to connect with a character? Have you ever considered which actor you would cast in the role of your protagonist were it made into a movie?

Related to this Meme: Location: Live Another Life? [MEME]

SG1 Series Part Two: Character Development

Characters are an elemental part of every story. An intriguing plot with a good story-arc is important but without approachable characters your story will never connect with an audience. Readers need characters. Characters are the socket for your stories power supply. It is through your characters that readers can plug into the plot and experience the life of your story.

The Stargate series introduces a multitude of characters in various stages and of differing quality and consideration. Some play bit parts as extras or body count but others grow into the story, we come to love them or hate them, we come to care for the part they play in the story, their injuries and deaths bring anguish and grief or heartfelt cheers.


SG1 – Jack, Daniel, Sam and Teal’c

The original SG1 is a team of four diverse characters. Their differences create an initial challenge; they struggle as a unit until they learn to use each others strengths to counter their own weaknesses. It shows the importance of bringing opposites together. These characters are unique in their own fields. It is their united purposes, each individual to their character, which brings them together. A bond is formed that gives this eclectic community a solid friendship. We see the bond develop and grow with the characters as the series progresses.

It is important to blend characters but avoid carbon copies. Each character should be unique and individual. Distinguish them with separate goals, established histories, areas of interest and technique.


The SGC and General Hammond

The Stargate Command is an entity in its own right. It is actually a collection of individuals that work in regulated ways to create a standardized base of operations. There are many faceless characters lead by the General. Most of the time we don’t connect with these individuals but General Hammond represents the unity. His personality molds the actions of the SGC.

Larger forces need a strong head character to represent their interests. Armies can seem like a long column of faceless men but a charismatic leader will show a distinguishing command of his forces. Each of his men is ultimately the voice of this man and a solid leader is one whose men will lay down their own lives to support the orders he puts forth. This is true of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ guys.


The Goa’uld

While the Goa’uld are a nasty bunch in their own right they are an ideal antagonist. They aren’t evil. They have solid reasoning and a collection of emotional reactions that allow readers to associate with them. The Goa’uld act entirely out of an arrogant sense of self preservation and domination. As a people (um… symbiotic race) they act with rational, intelligent thought. They are challenging but not insurmountable.

Antagonists should be normal people. You can create more impact with a sympathetic antagonist then with a diabolical freak. If a reader can see themselves in a protagonist you have a good story but if readers can see themselves to some small degree in the antagonist then you have a charged situation that will keep a reader tied to the outcome.

There are many more characters involved in the Stargate series. Each new person (or group of people) is shown in snippets. Base motivations appear and personality traits are revealed but characters always have an element that remains unseen. It is impossible to know everything and it is important that characters can still do something unexpected or unpredictable.

Over time, we get to know the main characters. Their own personal stories are revealed and delved into. The primary characters are challenged with personal situations forcing them to make choices that distinguish them. Whole episodes play a vital role in adding depth to these characters and introduce situations that push their qualities forward.

  • Use time in your story to slowly reveal your characters.
  • Allow their actions and reactions to portray the depth of their beliefs and desires.
  • Each scene should use your characters strengths and weaknesses.
  • 3D characters have sides we cannot see.
  • A characters relationships reveal vital clues to their personality.
  • Characters always continue to grow and change based on the situations that occur in each moment of their lives.

Finally, just because your story has reached ‘The End’ does not mean your characters have. Characters should still be imperfect in the final scene. Their growth remains incomplete. Some of your characters may have died but most will live on beyond your closing paragraph and while they began at one point and progressed to another in this story there should always be another world to save, another enemy to fight, another day to live and another dream to follow.

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