13.16: Avoiding Flat Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

For our purposes, the term “flat character” refers to a character who lacks the depth required to maintain reader interest. In this episode we discuss how to avoid putting flat characters front-and-center in our writing, and how we go about fixing manuscripts that have flat character problems.


Take a flat character from media you’ve consumed and write a backstory to make them less flat.

Artemis, by Andy Weir

8 thoughts on “13.16: Avoiding Flat Characters”

  1. I’m not certain (it might be on my end), but the Writing Excuses podcast isn’t loading on itunes, and hasn’t since Thursday. Is it working for anyone else? I’ve not had any problems with any other podcasts loading in that time.

  2. A question that came to me while listening. Are flat characters also cliche? It seemed like alpha readers were telling me that I had flat characters the first draft of my WiP, but when explaining why they were flat, they basically said that it feels like X is a typical jock and Y is a typical prom queen.

    1. I’d certainly say cliche characters are flat. My personal term for a typical jock or prom queen is an “off the shelf” character, as if someone went down to Storage, grabbed a jock of prom queen off the shelf and dropped them in my story. I always want to pop the hood on those and see what I can add to them so they feel real.

      Example: The 1990s sci-fi show Babylon 5 had some really great characters in it, but I often feel the character of John Sheridan got short-shrift. He had a weakness for being an off-the-shelf Square-Jawed Hero because his roles as The Hero was so central to the plot.

      That and using nuclear weapons to solve problems, but I digress. :)

  3. Bradley,
    I would try it again now. I’m not using itunes, but I was having trouble with their RSS feed over the weekend. I checked this morning and it’s working again.

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