Ryan A McHargue

The Art of Creating Three-Dimensional Characters: Adding Depth to Your Storytelling

Writing interesting characters that draw in your readers is an accomplishment. Now what kind of accomplishment it is depends on how well you create a layered personality and motivation.

I do not claim to be an expert, but my characters have gotten some love from readers. That love has mostly come from the emotional connection the reader can create with the character.

Layered Personalities and Motivations:

To bring your characters to life, it’s essential to develop layered personalities and motivations. Avoid the trap of one-dimensional archetypes by providing depth to their emotions, desires, and fears. Consider their experiences, their relationships with other characters, and their individual journeys. Allowing readers to connect with their struggles through love, revenge, or a personal goal creates deeper understanding.

Flaws and Imperfections:

Perfect characters are just not relatable and can hinder the engagement of your readers as we all know far too well. So introduce flaws and imperfections. Give each character a physical, emotional, or psychological trait that is less than perfect. That doesn’t mean you should create traits that are very flawed, in fact slight or moderate flaws are better.

Creating imperfection in your characters not only will add realism but it also creates opportunities for growth and transformation throughout your story. Allow your characters to make mistakes, face setbacks, and learn from their failures. This creates a sense of empathy and investment in their personal development.

Unique Voice and Dialogue:

The hardest thing for an author to do is think in a different internal voice. And yet that is exactly what you must do. To make your characters truly distinctive you must focus on developing a unique voice for each character. Think about the factors that shape their speech and expression. Through their dialogue, you can reveal their personalities, values, and attitudes. Pay attention to their speech patterns, choice of words, and use of language.

Internal and External Conflict:

Conflict is the driving force in life and even more so in storytelling. Learning to integrate both an internal and external conflict within your characters will add depth. Internal conflicts could be struggles with self-doubt, moral dilemmas, or conflicting desires. Never underestimate the internal need and want conflict.

External conflicts could arise from relationships, societal pressures, or the world they inhabit. By exploring the conflicts your characters face, you provide opportunities for growth, self-discovery, and transformation, making their journey compelling and relatable.

Backstory and Subtext:

A well-crafted backstory can enhance the richness of your characters. Explore their experiences, traumas, and pivotal moments that have shaped them into who they are at the start of your story. This information can shape the reader’s behavior, decisions, and worldview. Add complexity and intrigue to their portrayal through subtle hints.


Creating three-dimensional characters involves developing layered personalities, incorporating flaws and imperfections, crafting unique voices, exploring conflicts, and creating compelling backstories. Make sure your characters are real and relatable for your audience to invest in them. Take on the challenge of three-dimensional characters and elevate your storytelling.

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