Creating Valuable Complexity in Characters
Updated: Apr 24, 2021
So I have been thinking about 'common errors' among inexperienced writers; especially the idea that writers often try to go after complexity in stories that isn't helpful and can overwhelm the point. And I am coming to the conclusion that I have a habit of adding more characters to a story instead of adding complexity to the characters that already exist. This is where my new love affair with character dossiers comes into play.
My current novel is struggling under the weight of too many characters and I have started trying different character dossiers to really develop what the core characters can do before adding more. A quick google search will get you to lots of options, and I believe that the dossier that resonates with you will depend on you as a writer. I like to write for a while before i really work on a dossier or character development process.
As a result I like the dossiers with slightly more unusual questions that break past the basic name rank and serial number questions. This dossier is sort of all encompassing Use the Character Dossier To Create a Memorable Character | The Elements of Writing It starts with the basic, external elements and slowly gets more internal, where the real complexity comes from.
If you are working a little more deeply with a character you might want to do a more extensive dossier / development process like you would find here. How to Create a Character Profile: the Ultimate Guide (with Template) (reedsy.com)
But let's face it not every character needs a complete dossier and that's why it's good to have a few in your pocket. I have been using a variety of dossiers to help me when I need to add complexity. It focuses on a few questions that might push me to think a little differently.
It's the one of question or unusual situation that will drive you to really make decisions about your character and then you can start to see what they will inevitably do to themselves and each other.
Share your favorite dossier or character building process in the comments below.