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One Dimensional Characters

Banes at 12:00AM, Dec. 22, 2016

Talking Stock

A good character is a three-dimensional character, right? They have to be relateable. With wants and fears that make sense. And a bit of a history. And a flaw or two to keep them “human”. And a wound to try and overcome. And maybe even a contradiction within that makes them REALLY human.

Well, maybe not.

There is certainly a place for stock characters or one-note characters, too! Many of us have run into the impatient businessman, the deceptive car dealer, the frazzled parent, and the zen hippy in real life.

Of course, that's surely not ALL there is to each of these folks…but it may be all we get to see before they pass by and out of our lives.

Ditto in fiction. A protagonist might just encounter one of these stock types long enough to experience some extra conflict, or even just some background ambience or colour.

And a quick understanding of certain stock types in fiction can be handy, too, so we can know what we're dealing with in one sentence, or one comic panel, so we can see how our particular Protagonist is going to deal with this Femme Fatale, or schoolyard bully, or officious bureaucrat, or otherdimensional Monster-God (Dormammu shout out).

Maybe the shorthand understanding can even be used to quickly turn expectations upside down…when we think we know the stock character, and then are surprised when they are NOT what they appear to be (which I guess is getting us into two- or three-dimensional characters…)

And there is a solid place for “the mysterious stranger” in fiction: characters in major roles can be fairly limited in dimension and still be awesome (or be awesome BECAUSE of it, even).

And the star themselves can be less dimensional than their supporting cast, too - wouldn't The Tick be way less interesting if he had more nuance? What? You don't remember The Tick cartoon? How DARE you!


Of course, an Antagonistic force can be fascinating (and terrifying) if they're just one-note, unstoppable types. JAWS! The Blob! The original Terminator! Michael Myers! All compelling forces of nature who are made interesting by the other characters' reactions to them and efforts to escape or stop them!

We need not be afraid to put a seemingly one-note type into your story. They can become unexpected stars, after all! Look at LOBO!

Hope you all have a fine, safe, fun Christmas!

talk to you again soon,

One-note Banes



Tantz_Aerine at 3:07PM, Dec. 23, 2016

You're absolutely right! (and great article by the way!) I always remember the character of the middle manager in The Incredibles with lines such as "I'm not happy, Bob. Ask me why, Bob" with glee. He was awesome (and one dimensional).

Udyr at 1:03AM, Dec. 23, 2016

Interesting article :) I think ALL stories must read a one note at least SOMEWHERE into the plot haha. Most of the characters I end up finding the most interesting are often one-notes, which quickly develop into ideas. Most of the cast main/bi characters start off that way.

KimLuster at 10:32AM, Dec. 22, 2016

Great stuff! And I totally agree with it all... Ya know, I had a fear that I was making the main antagonist in the Godstrain (Ol' Uncle Eli) too one-dimensional. Surely such an important part of the story should be more fleshed out, right...? But, I thought about how such horrible people could appear to their victims, esp. the younger... (nasty unstoppable forces instead of people...) and I concluded it's really just fine to depict Eli that way. I'm sure, from his point of view, he has some non-vile characteristics that we all could relate to, but... This ain't his story!! Oh, and I read a TPB of Lobo once... God it was so over the top ridiculous, and I couldn't put it down...!! Also saw this big hardback about this bruising character called 'The Goon' - read it too! Sometimes mindless fun mayhem is good for the soul!! I've tried to think of ways to write a female character in that vein - that'd be fun!!

Ozoneocean at 6:24AM, Dec. 22, 2016

Well written and interesting! I like when you mix it up with one dimensional archetypes- as you say in your post up there: introducing them as one type (the hippy or example) and then completely overturning the expectations the reader has based on that impression.

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