Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Write a Cardboard Character

If I lived in a one dimensional world with my one dimensional mind, I’d want to know how to create a one dimensional character. It would be a terrible thing if my readers should ever care about my characters. To avoid this embarrassing eventuality, I’ve written a guide to help the imaginative writer to improve their unimagination.

1. Don’t give your characters any goals to strive towards or any lessons to learn. Make sure your characters are the same at the end of your novel as they were at the beginning. The single dimension can’t pull off anything as engaging as – shudder – growth.

2. Stick to clichés like glue. We all know that builders, truck drivers and miners are burly men, so if your character is any of these, then he must also be burly. We all know librarians wear glasses, so why give your librarian character good eyesight? Your main character has to be beautiful and she must be good at everything. Don’t rock the boat in the one dimensional world. No one likes surprises there.

3. Avoid motivations. Who cares what may have caused your characters to react a certain way. No explanation needed.

4. Only write as much about the character as is required by the plot. Make sure they are only driven by the story you want to tell. Don’t waste the reader’s time with internal conflicts. Don’t try to add any extra dimensions. One dimension means one and one only.

5. Don’t smudge the borders of good and evil. Make evil characters evil and good characters good. If your character wears the proverbial black hat then he must not show any goodness in him. Let’s not confuse the readers.

What are some of the mistakes you might make while trying to create a cardboard character?

18 comments:

  1. Great post! We'd have to make sure they showed absolutely no growth through the novel - they can't learn a darn thing :)

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  2. be sure to have super sharp scissors because cardboard is really hard to cut???

    really, great post! (copied onto a post-it; stuck on my desk)

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  3. Jemi, learning is fail :P

    Aspiring, lol. Glad you liked. I did have fun with this post.

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  4. And let them just linger around and not actually take part in the narrative (had a father of a character in my story always 'just there' without any real input, he started to look creepy). :-)

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  5. haha Charmaine..actually that sounds too interesting for one dimension :P

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  6. Make sure you tie up every single loose end by the end of the book. One-dimensional characters only live in one book, so their lives must be tied in a pretty bow by the end so readers don't worry about them or want to read another installment.

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  7. lol, for sure, Helen! Nice one :)

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  8. Did you make the cutouts yourself? That takes talent I don't have. :D

    Oh, make the character have the same reaction always - nodding, shrugging, etc ...

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  9. M Pax - yes, I did :) And yes, I had to chuckle at your great suggestion. My current WIP has everyone scowling. Every time I write I think, rawr. Then I shrug and tell myself, meh, it's only the first draft. Gotta keep writing...

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  10. Oh I love the flip of this! Awesome! I am trying really hard to make my characters full of life!

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  11. LOL...You might really enjoy Dan Bergstein at Spark Notes...He writes great character development suggestions,too. :)

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  12. Thanks, Sharon, for the suggestion :)

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  13. Dear Lynda,

    This is so very fine indeed! May I add your blog to my "Duct Tape and Razor Blades for Writers" blogroll? It's a practical writing tips section. Either way, peace and continued good things for you in writing and in life. Sincerely,

    Diane

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  14. Hi, Diane. Yes, for sure. I feel honoured :)

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  15. Great! I'll post it directly. Again, thank you, peace and a wonderful weekend.

    Diane

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  18. Thanks for this wonderful post.Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer.

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