Every main character must be a three-dimensional person. Exactly what does that mean? It means they must be like real people who have nuances, nervous habits, attitudes, bad habits, good habits, a past, present, and future, and are often unpredictable. This is what it takes to make a believable character.

Minor characters can be two-dimensional. Their history need not be so deep, and all of their little quirks need not be revealed. However, you should know them and their quirks just as well as your 3-D characters.

If you will do the following exercise just twice, you will never have to do it again. It will come to you automatically from then on. Every story will have a protagonist (white hat guy) and an antagonist (villain). For these two characters, create a long and detailed background of what they are like.

1. What are their attitudes?
2. How do they talk?
3. What flaws do they have?
4. What emotional problems do they have?
5. Where are they from?
6. What was their childhood like?
7. What was it like?
8. What are their actions like?
9. Do they walk fast or slow?
10. What is their mood most of the time? Somber? Dramatic? Joking? Angry?
11. How do they get along with

their family?
12. Describe their past life.
13. What is their Holiday season like?

What kinds of "warts" do your characters have? (Warts are something that distinguishes one character from another.) It can be a limp, a real wart on the nose, a person's bald head, lots of make-up, strange clothing, an emotional disturbance, or anything else you decide upon. These warts help the reader keep the characters straight in their mind.

Let's look at some warts on characters: Let's say a woman's son is getting married. She is overweight and she goes to the story to catalog order a dress for the wedding. The dress is for her, but she orders it two sizes smaller than she is. What does this tell you about this lady?

a. She has high hopes of losing weight before the wedding
b. She is proud
c. She has high hopes of losing lots of weight
d. She is determined
e. She is the kind of person who will see things through to the bitter end.

You can learn all these things by an emotional wart. Let's try another.

A woman is insanely stressed over the varicose veins in her legs, yet she eventually changes to wearing shorts and bathing suits in public. Why? This is a classic demonstration of a character change (directly due to the wart), based on the man vs. man conflict. (Search 4 conflicts of writing.) This can be one of the strongest types of stories if it is done well.

To make your 3-D characters, make a list of 50 things that will answer every question there is to ask about your character. Now make a list of very basic traits for your 2-D characters. For additional writer's tips, see below.