During this revision, I’m working on giving a few of my characters more depth. I need to make them come alive, and let the reader get to know them.
Like story arc and dialogue, character development is difficult for me because I don’t have much experience with it. I don’t develop characters in journalism. I offer a perfectly accurate quote, and tell the reader why it matters that so-and-so said it, explaining their relevance with a title or brief description. I never explain what they look like or how they think or why they became who they are. None of that matters in a news story.
But in a memoir, it does. I’m good at developing characters when I have lots of chapters to do it, when the character sticks around long enough that I can show who they are through dialogue and action. But when a character is only in the story for a chapter or so, they often fall flat.
Part of the problem is that I’m relying on my memory to flesh out each person. Unlike fiction, when the author is free to make up any details that help show a character’s personality, in memoir the characters are all real. The way they look, how they walk — none of it can be invented for the sake of the story. It all has to come from memory.
My agent marked in my manuscript the characters who need to be revamped. So I know what I need to do. The problem is, I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to make my characters three-dimensional.
So I’m turning to you for advice: How do you give your characters depth?