Reverse Advice: One Dimensional Characters

For quite some time I’ve been reading page upon page of advice to new writers.  And the more I mull it over, the more I realize a lot of it is wrong or at least incomplete. So let’s talk one dimensional characters…

What’s wrong with one dimensional characters?  Shuffling in the room, uncomfortable swallows. But one bright student has read the literature and is ready with the ‘right answer’. The problem is, it’s wrong. The answer is nothing. There is nothing wrong with a one dimensional character.

But that’s not what my writing teacher said.

No, it’s not. I would doubt even a handful of writing teachers out there that will support what I’m saying (at least at this moment in time). They will come to you with a grand selection of examples in which multidimensional characters rule the literary world.

So where does that leave J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sauron? What about Star Wars: A New Hope? (Yes, Vader was eventually redeemed, but the first movie stands very well on it’s own and Vader was evil to the core. He didn’t play with children or pet puppies. No, he was a one dimensional heavy who propelled the movie into super success).

Steven King, you say. Look at the characters he created. All multifaceted gray conglomerations of good and evil. Well, true, but Christine didn’t cart around orphans and fruit baskets. She was one-dimensional.

So, what you are reading is NOT true.  Your characters need desires. They need conflict. They need drama.  And you know what? Sometimes, they need to fight someone so bad the victory seems impossible.

Yes, it’s okay to create one dimensional characters. There’s a time and place for it.  The only advice you need is to read and write so much that you have finally figured out where the other advice will lead you astray.

On another note, I was thinking about it, and I’m fairly certain, it was the bad writing advice of our day that ruined Star Wars 4,5, & 6. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I thought the force worked better as a mystical magical energy field that bound all things. And then the Sci-fi publishers says “No, you must explain everything” and we get these metachlorines…WHAT?!!! It killed the magic. Killed it with stupid advice. (Okay, I’m calm again…had to get it out of my system…)


About jeanetteraleigh

Jeanette Raleigh is an artist and author who has spent most of her life at some creative pursuit. Whether painting a castle or writing a novel, Jeanette enjoys the playful aspects of creation and strives to make worlds where others feel at home. You can find her works of art and information about her fiction at
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1 Response to Reverse Advice: One Dimensional Characters

  1. David Barker says:

    I agree. And the one dimensional character doesn’t always have to be the heavy. They could be a good person, uncomplicated, who doesn’t have that big a role to play in the story.

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