Giving Dimensions to Your Fiction Characters

四季Please note that I live in the Great White North. The seasons and their corresponding emotions are reflective of life along the 49th parallel. The emotions, however, can be applied to your characters no matter where you place them, geographically speaking. If the cause of their mood is related to the season, be sure they are in a location that experiences that particular season at the specified time of the year. (Your protagonist may be depressed during Christmas in Australia, for instance, but it will not be because of mounds of snow.)

And speaking of snow . . .

How does the cold weather affect your state of mind? Do you find yourself thinking too much, over-analyzing your life? Do you jump aboard the emotional roller-coaster?

This time of year can lead to everything from low grade depression to full-blown S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Does the cold weather affect your protagonist? Would it add a new dimension to the story if it did?

Signs of Spring

And as March approaches, so does the promise of spring—my hubby’s favorite season. He loves to watch the trees come to life and keeps me posted as the buds become more prominent and finally burst into leaves. I admit spring never caught my attention until he pointed this out. And I do love it when tulips and crocuses push through the last of the snow.

Maybe one of your characters feels the same.

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

As summer approaches, many people’s minds turn to rest and relaxation, kicking back at the beach, and going on vacation. Personally, I’m not a fan of sweltering hot days, but that’s just me.

How does your antagonist feel about summer? If it’s relevant to the story, be sure to let readers know—by showing rather than telling, of course.

An Explosion of Color

Can you tell which season is my favorite? I love the smells, the sounds, and the sights of autumn. The nip in the air. The promise of new beginnings. The call to grab my camera and go for a photo walk. It likely goes back to my childhood, but it’s hard to remember back that far (grin).

Maybe that pile of leaves in the neighbor’s yard beckons your character to revisit their childhood. Do they succumb? If so, what comes of it?

These and many other possibilities present themselves to give your story a whole new dimension—and maybe even take you along a storyline you hadn’t imagined. And, if nothing else, you will know your characters better and that will shine through your writing.

Enjoy the journey, my writing friends!



by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 



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No More Mr. Nice Guy

Serene. Peaceful. Relaxed.

Who wouldn’t want a life marked by these adjectives?

And yet . . .

When we’re writing fiction, these same adjectives just may put our readers to sleep.

This week let’s apply a few tips for keeping readers engaged and flipping those pages.

  1. First, write a short short (a complete story) or a fictional scene of 500-1000 words. Fill it with kind and loving characters relating to one another with empathy and compassion. And, of course, drop them in the middle of an idyllic setting.
  2. Rewrite the same story and introduce a crotchety—or even dangerous—antagonist. Caucasian Man Scowling Portrtait(Feel free to convert one of the characters you already included.) Watch how the interactions, even between the other characters, take on a new dimension.
  3. Rewrite Version #2. This time either transport your characters to a far less idyllic setting or introduce a natural or manmade disaster that will threaten the setting and the characters (i.e. the protagonist’s dream home burns down or a severe thunderstorm leaves the characters—or some of the characters—stranded).
  4. Focus on one of the characters—perhaps the protagonist—and “roughen up the edges.” Give the character an annoying habit or a trigger that sets him or her off . . . or some other facet that makes him or her more believable, more human.
  5. Now revisit your antagonist’s personality. Is there something you can introduce to make him or her a more sympathetic character? Don’t tone down the threat; just allow readers to understand the character a little more.
  6. Even in a very short story, there should be some form of character arc, a hero’s journey as it were. Does the protagonist change in any way? Does he or she have to make a significant decision that will change the path he or she is following? If you are writing a scene rather than a complete story, are you setting up an arc for your character? Rewrite your piece again with this in mind.

If you’ve gone through these steps, your story will be much different than it was at first. You will begin to understand what it’s like for fiction writers to write, rewrite, and rewrite again. The first draft of any novel is usually far different from the book that hits the shelves. It requires patience, willingness to learn, and more hours than many of us realize. But in the end it makes our stories more engaging, more exciting, more gripping. Now, what writer wouldn’t want that?

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links 
Questions? Email