You’ve probably come across a few books (or written some) where you wish certain characters had more depth to them, wondered if they had enough depth, or thought they might even have too much focus if they’re not the main character. So how do you know when to give a character enough “depth”?
For starters, what is depth? It’s the foundation of a character’s personality and behavior, a past, if you will, and also a look inside their mind that registers with readers the reasoning behind all their actions, which are less than predictable at the surface. Because, well, they’re deep. If they were shallow, we’d know all about them from one glance and know their every move.
Deep character defy the odds. As Shrek once said, they have “many layers.” Like onions. So, to sum it up, deep characters are onions. Or cabbages. I like cabbage better. Or, no, forget cabbage! Think of a rose. A beautiful rose that starts off as a bud and then blossoms into all these stunning layers. Or a thick book with pages and pages of meaningful text. That’s depth right there.
The only way to tell how much depth a character really needs is to determine where they stand in what I call the character pyramid. It looks something like this:
Supporting Characters: Sidekicks and/or romantic interests (3D)
Tritagonists: Main villain and minor characters (2D or 3D)
Other characters and minor villains (2D)
Background people (the nurse, the clerk, the doctor) (1D)
Here, 3D obviously stands for 3-dimentional, and so on. The closer to the top of the pyramid, the more depth the characters deserve. And the more depth the readers will expect.
As an example, let’s look at something that has a ton of characters, like Harry Potter. Here’s the pyramid:
Harry Freakin’ Potter
Ron | Hermione
Voldemort | Hagrid | Snape | Dumbledore
Ginny | Luna | Neville | Fred & George | Draco |Sirius
All the other students and teachers whose names we don’t know
Obviously, there are a lot more characters in the story, but you get the point. This is a nice tool to help figure out if characters have enough depth, depending on how high they are to the top of the pyramid. The higher up they are, the deeper they gotta be.
Know of any stories with characters that deserved more depth?
-The Story Addict