The lifeblood of your comic is the characters in it. They offer a way for the audience to be invested in the world and contextualise any conflicts that will inevitably occur. So it is important that the characters don’t come across as flat. A flat character is one dimensional. They have maybe one or two personality traits but that’s about it. What does it mean to have a flat character? Let’s find out.
Flat characters don’t have layers
People are more than a walking trope and the same goes for characters. They’re complex and
Have more than one archetypal quality. Flat characters will not go beyond that label. They’re often lacking in depth. If you’re developing a more rounded character try and add more than just a stereotypical character trait. Maybe the character is jokes a lot because they’re trying to deflect how they really feel. Maybe they’re a jerk because they’re home life is hard. By adding complexity you not only have a more realistic character, you also invite potential points of conflict.
Flat characters don’t have goals
If your character does not have a goal over the course of the story then you have written a flat character. If they’re a minor character then there is no need to worry. However, if your protagonist doesn’t know what they want or why they’re there in the first place you have a problem. Your character has to have a goal or motivation otherwise, why be there at all? Once you have that worked out, you a step closer to a more well-rounded character.
Flat characters aren’t dealing with conflicts
Most people are dealing with some sort of problem in their lives, be it big or small. It’s in these moments that the personality is revealed. A character may be falling flat if they are not being challenged. When a character reacts to conflict, it highlights who they are at their core as well as inviting an opportunity for the audience to empathise with them be it for good or bad.
Have you ever created a flat character? Do you think they are necessarily a bad thing? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!
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Characters falling flatEmma_Clare at 12:00AM, Aug. 23, 2019
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AmeliaP at 4:27PM, Aug. 24, 2019
Woo, I like this article! "Have you ever created a flat character?" Always XD "Do you think they are necessarily a bad thing?" Nope, some flat characters can be developed later in the story.
bravo1102 at 2:54AM, Aug. 24, 2019
I was told early on to pick one thing to define a character that gives them depth without weighing down the story. One obsession or personality quirk that makes them stand out. What is the character there to do in the story? Motivation? Foil? Pain in the butt? Then have what they do define them. What makes them the pain in the butt? Bad feet? Poor taste in clothes? Always thinking about sex? Football? That can act as fertilizer to get the rest of the persona to grow. And yes, cut-outs have their purpose too. Got to have victims in a horror story.
usedbooks at 4:56AM, Aug. 23, 2019
I usually contemplate characters a couple years in advance so I know them really well. Not all of them are super deep. (My (antagonist?) character Jack is a self-serving, fun-addicted, live-in-the-moment party animal. No backstory. No long-term life goals. Surrounds himself with shiny things and excitement. Super fun to write.) It's most important in a large ensemble cast that characters be distinct. No duplicates. I have killed off a poorly constructed character to "replace" the role. My earliest villains aren't around any more.
KAM at 4:31AM, Aug. 23, 2019
I think I mentioned this once before, but I was working on a novel and I worried that my villain was a little too 2-dimensional and so I tried adding flashbacks to flesh her out a bit, but oddly they seemed to make her more and more 2-dimensional than she was. Bizarre.
usedbooks at 4:11AM, Aug. 23, 2019
I used to be really bad at creating antagonists. Then I started reading more news. Now I have better villains (and anxiety).