It isn’t possible to do this for every single character, but the ones who are really important are owed a tangible existence by the author. Characters with no depth may appear to readers as one or two dimensional, and this should only apply to incidental characters who may only appear once or very occasionally.
I have read an awful lot of books in which many, if not all of the characters, are nothing more than words on the pages they are written on. Stories are nothing unless they come alive in the mind and stand out with a firm existence on those pages. It’s no good for an author to introduce their characters simply by name and the words that come out of their mouths; I want to know what they look like, what their body language suggests about them, and I want them to have individual personalities.
There are a few people who have read something of my writing already who have told me that many of my characters represent different sides of my own personality. This is undoubtedly true. Authors who truly care about their writing and their characters will inject some measure of their own life experiences and emotions, and also the experiences and emotions of those they know.
If you’re one of those readers who really engages with a story and its characters on a personal and emotional level, I hope that there will be at least one character of mine that you might relate to. For the record, a few of the aspects of me that display my values, emotions and desires in relation to my characters that have been mentioned by friends who know me well are:
· The desire for order and respect
· The desire to be free
· The carefree, jovial side
· The aloof, brooding and vengeful side
· The desire for justice
· The part that wishes for balance, and a peaceful existence
· The part that harbours deep pain and sorrow.
I find it interesting that I have listed seven, but this is by no means all of them. The point I am trying to make here is that as a reader, I am so often perplexed by the lack of empathy from some authors, and I want to express my desire to bring my characters to life. I can’t promise that every reader will think of my characters as three-dimensional, but I can dream, and hope that many still will. One of my favourite quotes is from the poet, Robert Frost; “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
Not every story is going to touch every reader in the same way, but the effort should always be noticeable. Characters should have a very strong, tangible presence on the page, or they will fail to touch hearts and minds, and nobody will be able to see them as anything more than a name.