Tired of getting feedback that your characters feel flat or are one-dimensional? Then this article is for you! In this article, we will be breaking down complex characters, how to write them, and then breaking down classic characters that we love.
WHAT IS A THREE-DIMENSIONAL CHARACTER?
Let’s start with the basics. A three-dimensional character is a character who has depth. They feel like we know them personally. They can be flawed and complex, but either way, they have unique and full fictional lives. When crafting your protagonist, they must be likable or relatable so the audience can be invested in their journey.
When creating three-dimensional characters, pull from your real-life experiences. The characters in your screenplay should feel like real people. Pull from your unique experiences and personal connections with others. People watch and observe their speech patterns, how they problem solve, express emotion, and resolve conflict. Note their mannerisms, actions and reactions. When brainstorming characters, consider these key components:
CHARACTERS WE LOVE
When a character is done well, they feel like our best friends, or even just like ourselves. This is what makes us root for them and invest in their journey. Now that we have broken down the basics of crafting a three-dimensional character, let’s break down some familiar characters and analyze why they resonated with audiences.
What made Annalise Keating from HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER such an iconic character was that she was so powerful but also immensely flawed. She is a lawyer who stands up for what is right but also bends the rules when she sees fit, not to mention she has a drinking problem. What made her so relatable was her raw sense of emotion. Her low moments felt like real-life experiences, and the audience was able to root for her to get back on top again. In the below video, Annalise is in rehab and has just returned to her room after dismissively attending group therapy. In this private moment, she finally lets loose and releases all of the negative thoughts she has about herself.
The lesson here is characters may show up one way in the world - just like real people, our egos don't allow us to show up everywhere as our full selves. We wear masks and send in our representatives. However, it is in these quiet moments that we really get to know who a character is. These moments become secrets that the audience carries with them, now knowing something about our protagonist that the other characters in screen don't know. We're bonded.
Whether you love him or hate him, you can not help but feel some type of way about Jody from BABY BOY. Jody is an adult male who still lives with his mother and overall lacks independence. He cheats on his girlfriend and still has a lot of growing up to do. What makes the character three-dimensional is that although he has flaws, he is actively working to improve his circumstances. He has several failed attempts, but what audiences resonate with is his drive and the overall feeling of growing from a boy to a man. In the scene below from our Screenplay Vault, after realizing the value of life and moving out of his mother’s home, Jody reconnects with his mother and shows his first signs of maturity. This is a full-circle moment for Jody, and we see his character arc fulfilled.
Whether you are looking for feedback to ensure your screenplay has three-dimensional characters or a fully comprehensive breakdown of your story elements, The Professional Pen is here for you. Our Story Experts are trained and ready to help you build characters worth investing in. Ready to receive feedback? Check out our Development Notes today!
Written by TPP Story Expert Khadija Roane