Saturday, November 12, 2016

A More Rounded Discussion About Flat Characters

By Lacey Gunter

It's never pleasant to get feedback from a reader or reviewer that your main characters are too flat. Flat characters are characters in a story who have one, maybe two, personality traits and experience no growth or change throughout the course of the story. It's okay to have flat characters in your story to move the plot along, especially if their development would be a distraction from the main plot line. But even a moderately interested reader could probably tell you that flat main characters are bad because they don't feel real. They don't seem human. They are more like a plastic doll being moved around by the author as a tool to illustrate an idea, facilitate action, or contrast the realness and growth in a truly round or believable character.  Because of this, we really don't care much about what happens to flat characters. It's only the round, fleshed out, or realistic characters that command our attention and deserve our emotional investment.

There is a deeper lesson in understanding character depth than just improving your writing, a lesson that has never been more desperately needed than now, at least not during my lifetime.

When we throw labels on living, breathing human beings, we are attempting to reduce that person to a single perceived trait. In essence, we are suggesting that that one word description could sum up the entirety of who they are, what they have experienced, what they have accomplished and their relationship with the rest of human kind.  We are attempting to flatten that person's character and  implying that they lack the ability to experience true change or growth We are dehumanizing them and declaring them unworthy of our attention or emotional investment.

No matter how much we dislike what a person has to say or an action they take, no single label can truly sum up the essence of who that person is.  And Christ suffered on the cross every bit as much for them as he did for each of us.  So he has clearly demonstrated they are capable of growth and change and worthy of his attention and emotional investment. Why then should they not be worthy of our attention and emotional investment?

The next time you are tempted to throw a label on someone who thinks or acts differently from you, I challenge you to see that person as more than just a flat character.  Take the time to discover some of the depth of that person's character and recognize their humanity. In spite of their apparent flaws, you may discover something you didn't expect, a reason to respect them, an issue you agree with them or even the potential for a lasting friendship. 

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I need a "Well...that escalated quickly!" meme. Not the post I expected, but a valid and important message nonetheless. :-)



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