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Instant Depth! Five Simple Ways to Add Layers to Your Characters

We’ve all been there. You’ve crafted a character, given them a backstory, a goal, and even a lovable pet. Yet, when you sit back and read your draft, they still feel… flat. Like a paper doll in a pop-up book world. Frustrating, isn’t it?

But fear not, dear writer! I’m here to sprinkle a little fairy dust and help you pump some three-dimensional life into your creations. So, let’s dive in and explore five ways to give your characters that much-coveted depth.

1. Everyone Has a Secret

Remember when you hid that candy bar from your sibling or told your friend you “forgot” about the homework assignment? Secrets, big or small, shape us. They influence our actions, cause guilt, pride, or anxiety, and give readers an enticing peek into a character’s hidden layers.

Tip to Try: Give your character a secret. It could be as simple as a hidden love for cheesy pop songs or as complex as a concealed past identity. Now, use that secret to influence their decisions throughout the story.

2. Quirks and Habits

People are peculiar creatures. Some of us chew the end of pens, some can’t resist touching soft fabrics, while others have specific routines for even the tiniest tasks. These quirks make us relatable and memorable.

Tip to Try: Infuse your character with two or three quirks. Maybe they tap their nose when they lie or always tie their shoes in a particular pattern. These habits not only make them more relatable but can also be used as tools for foreshadowing or emphasizing emotions.

3. Fleeting Thoughts

We all have them. Those transient musings that flit through our minds—a mix of the mundane, profound, whimsical, and sometimes even bizarre. They offer glimpses into our inner world.

Tip to Try: Inject fleeting thoughts into your character’s internal monologue. Whether it’s a passing judgment about a stranger’s shoes or a sudden realization about their own behavior, these glimpses provide readers with a more intimate connection to the character’s psyche.

4. The Past Shapes the Present

Our history defines us. Past experiences, good or bad, influence our current behavior, choices, fears, and desires. Even if they’re not explicitly mentioned, they’re the ghosts that haunt every decision we make.

Tip to Try: Sketch out a few significant events from your character’s past—things that have never made it to your story. Understanding these can help you make sense of their current actions, reactions, and motivations.

5. Everyone’s a Walking Contradiction

People are messy and contradictory. We can be brave yet fear spiders, or be extremely organized but have a chaotic personal life. Embrace these contradictions—they make characters more believable and less stereotypical.

Tip to Try: List down the traits of your character. Now, for every trait, give them a contrasting one. It could be a hidden aspect they’re not even aware of, but it will add layers to their personality.

Wrapping It Up:

Giving depth to your characters is akin to getting to know a friend intimately. It’s about uncovering layers, understanding quirks, and accepting contradictions. And remember, like in real life, it’s okay for characters to surprise you. Sometimes, they grow and evolve in ways we never anticipate. That’s the beauty of writing.

Stay inspired, let your characters breathe, and never stop exploring their depths. See you in the next piece, where we’ll navigate the maze of plot twists!

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