Developing Depth in Your Characters–A Great Way to Increase Word Count

character stick figureThe following is a reblog from David Rettig at Dandelion Sci-fi. The thing that really struck me about this exercise was that it could also be used to deepen areas of a plot. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve read writers bemoaning that they’re shy of a word count goal for a finished story. And sure, you can add some description, but you can only do a certain amount of that before you kill your pacing dead. Deepening story or further developing characters–ultimately, I feel this is a much more satisfying way to add to your word count.

And making characters more complex and three-dimensional is always a worthy goal, no matter where your word count stands. Without further ado, here’s the article:

Two dimensional characters are prevalent in stories.  They make your stories flat, uninteresting, and predictable.


One cause of two-dimensional characters is lack of well-thought out character motivation. Authors can become so focused on driving the action forward that they inadequately develop character motivation to make the character believable.

In my novel, Project Dandelion, the protagonist, Krysia, wants to join an elite group of militia who protect her home from a dangerous predator.  I could simply say “Krysia wants this because I want a tough female character.” And throughout the novel, she acts out the part of “tough female character”. Krysia is no longer real; she is simply a caricature. She is generic and completely uninteresting.

To delve into character motivation, I stole an idea from Six Sigma (or TPS) called root cause analysis.  The idea is that if you ask “why?” five times, you actually get to the root (or fundamental) cause of a problem.  Wikipedia has a great example:

The vehicle will not start. (the problem)

  1. Why? – The battery is dead. (first why)
  2. Why? – The alternator is not functioning. (second why)
  3. Why? – The alternator belt has broken. (third why)
  4. Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (fourth why)
  5. Why? – The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (fifth why, a root cause)

Read the rest of the article here:

And keep writing! : )


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Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

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