Revision Tip #7 – fully developed characters

Characters who are important enough to interact with your main character regularly need to be multi-dimensional, not flat.

What is a flat character?

One that only has one set of attributes, who always has the same kind of emotional response to situation. Check the words you use to attribute a character’s speech; if s/he is always sneering or whining or laughing, then you might have a problem. Multi-dimensional characters have different facets to their character. Even the bad guys have good moments, and the good guys can be jerks sometimes. What is interesting are the circumstances that make a person act slightly out of character.

Unreliable teen narrators (like Melinda in SPEAK) make this harder on the author, especially when writing in the 1st person POV. The narrator is still maturing and has a limited scope and understanding of the world. It is helpful to craft a few scenes where the reader can assess more about the situation than the narrator does.

If your character is a chord instead of a single note, your story becomes richer.

5 Replies to “Revision Tip #7 – fully developed characters”

  1. Love that last line. It resonates just like the image it represents.

    It is helpful to craft a few scenes where the reader can assess more about the situation than the narrator does.

    This sounds key for unreliable first person. Can you point out such a scene in Speak?

  2. Thank you so much for writing such a great novel, I absolutely loved Speak!I can wait to utilize it in my classroom someday. I also really enjoyed the Q&A at the end of the novel, particularly the writing and revision process. I find it very interesting that the original drafts had Mr. Freeman as a flat character. But, per your references above, his different facets that make him so interesting – rebel, “jerk” as Melinda calls him at one point, and, ultimately, the trusted confident that Melinda can finally speak to. Have you ever considered expanding on him, or Heather from Ohio (who reminds me of me, so I’m fond of her character) in some form or fashion?

  3. Flat Characters

    SPEAK is a great book I had heard of prior to actually reading it. Also, thanks for the words of wisdom on flat characters. I particularly like when the reader is able to “assess more about the situation than the narrator does.” This is especially true in various parts of SPEAK. I also enjoyed the frustration I endured when wishing Melinda would say anything…anything at all. This is a great novel my 14 year old stepdaughter read first and told me about. She really enjoyed it as well.

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