In previous blogs I have talked about creating dynamic story characters and how the best characters are those who are four dimensional. Characters are the most important narrative elements in the story-world, and the quality or appeal of a story depends on whether a character is flat or fully developed – in other words, four dimensional. We all have our favourite story character/s from a book or a film. Characters determine how we experience the story-world and they leave the greatest impression on our mind and heart after we have read a book or watched a film.
Creating characters can be compared to an artist when he starts to create a masterpiece. He starts off with an idea, then he begins to sketch a rough outline of a landscape or a portrait, and then he applies the paint layer by layer. The layering process is when the artwork really begins to come to life.
Creating four dimensional characters is very similar. As we sit at our computer or when we put pen to paper we dream up a character, and then we begin to jot down details about that character.
The Layering Process of Characterization
The layering process of characterization is as follows:
The first layer is the character’s physical description. The second layer is his personality and idiosyncrasies. Once we have started to weave the story-world around that character, we can then add the final two layers: the third and fourth layer: observations from other characters, and the character’s interior world – his intimate thought-life. This final fourth layer reveals his worldview, his psychology. After this is complete, our character is now fully developed. He or she has been borne from the chrysalis of our imagination and they are now ready to have their journey shared on the screen or the page.
Sometimes creating dynamic and four dimensional characters can be challenging, so a great way to get started is to think about existing, well-known characters from books or films. Some of the characters below also cross over from a book to film.
Five of the best characters from books
Anne from Anne of Green Gables
Alex Cross from the James Patterson book series
Tris Prior from the Divergent trilogy
Five of the best characters from films
Frodo from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.
Superman from the Man of Steel film
Spiderman (the films with Tobey McGuire)
Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader