How to Write Three-Dimensional Characters

Whether you are writing your protagonist or a minor character, making that character as three-dimensional and intriguing as possible is an important goal for any writer. Through a process called characterization, writers reveal information about their characters’ personalities. Characterization can be defined as either direct or indirect.

Through direct characterization, the writer tells the reader what the character is like in a straightforward manner. The following is an example of direct characterization: Devin was anxious about the meeting with his boss.

Indirect characterization occurs when the reader must surmise what the character is like through his or her speech, physical appearance, actions, relationships with others, and thoughts. The following is an example of the character above, Devin, using indirect characterization: Devin bit his fingernails and his footsteps slowed as he approached his boss’s office.

Developing strong characters that readers care about takes practice. Character profiles are one method that writers can use to help with this. The following are areas of a character that you should think of and flesh out before you start writing a character. This list is not exhaustive, but is provided to help you start creating your character.

Appearance –

Behavior –

Education –

Fears –

Friends, Family, and Others –

History –

Hobbies –

Motives –

Occupation –

Primary Goal –

Reputation –

Sociability –

Talents & Abilities –

Tastes & Preferences –

Work Ethic –

Questions for further consideration:

  • What would your character post on Facebook?
  • What items would your character keep in a scrapbook?
  • How would your character fill out an online dating profile?