Make Them Threedimensional

For a solid object, the three dimensions are length, width, and depth. These define the way the object occupies space. But the only space a fictional character occupies is a corner of the author's mind. A character is a fantasy, a mere wisp of thought.

Lajos Egri, author of the classic work, The Art ofDramatic Writing, defined the three dimensions of fictional characters as physical, sociological, and psychological. This concept can help you create imaginary people who seem as solid as they would if they were real:

• Physical. When we meet someone new, the details of his appearance are the source of our first impressions. But the physical dimension goes beyond the basics of size, shape, and coloring to include the state of his health, his body language and style of movement, and his mode of dress.

• Sociological. The sociological dimension encompasses the character's connections to the world—his family, his social status, his educational attainments, his profession, his regional, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic background, and his relationships with other people.

• Psychological. The character's basic personality fits into the psychological dimension—his temperament and outlook on life, his passions and talents, his sense of humor, and his emotions, including his hopes and fears.

Just as people who live in the real world have multifaceted lives, so do people who populate the realms of fiction. The Tip Sheet: Three-Dimensional Characters on page 39 delves deeper into these three dimensions, giving you some questions to ask your characters as you get acquainted with them and come to understand their complexities.

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