re: How Do I “Flesh Out” Characters?

posted 12/22/11

Dear Editor…

I’m getting feedback to flesh out characters in my story. What does this mean and how can I do it in my story?



Dear Wendy…

Your characters probably read like cardboard cutouts, doing expected things in expected scenarios. The fix is deliciously mean: Deny them the things they expect! When you shove characters out of their comfort zones, they do unexpected things and grow more complex in the process. Got a cliché girly girl who jumps into her car after school and races to her room for a good cry when someone hurts her feelings? Slash her tires and force her to walk home—in the rain no less . . . and then make sure no one’s home to let her in. How will she respond to being stuck outside after a day like that? Will she find humor in Murphy’s Law, or will she bash her way through a window? Either way, we’ll get a look at her mettle. She won’t be a cardboard cutout just going through the motions. She’ll be going through the emotions—and deepening as a result.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Characterization
posted by: The Editor
under: Characterization
Comments to "re: How Do I “Flesh Out” Characters?" | Add a Comment
    1. Sue Ford wrote (on 12/22/11 at 7:58 am) :

      I love your “deliciously mean” comment.

    2. The Editor wrote (on 12/22/11 at 4:08 pm) :

      Some of the things we do as writers qualify as “tough love,” that’s for sure.

    3. eliza tilton wrote (on 12/22/11 at 8:08 am) :

      great. explanation!

    4. Laura C. wrote (on 12/24/11 at 9:31 am) :

      Haha! Isn’t it awful the way we torture our characters? But at least we get exciting novels out of it. Happy Holidays, Deborah! 😀

    5. Kim P wrote (on 02/01/13 at 8:33 am) :

      I love coming back to this blog time and again to run a search and find gems like this. I was actually looking for something on humor and this deliciously mean scenario – opened up a can of worms of it!!

    6. The Editor wrote (on 02/01/13 at 7:45 pm) :

      Glad to help you out, Kim. I’m going to assume that can of worms led to great discoveries. Happy writing!