This post is going to make me sound like a complete writing noob, but hey! You figure out a good thing that works and it's worth sharing. Check this action out!
We like characters, right? Can't have a story without them (can be done but, wooo - good luck). And in every story arch you have your introduction, the problem and the goals needed to overcome said problem. We get that down and we'll have a cool plot and solid story.
What about solid characters? They have goals and aspirations. If resolving the plot is all our characters have ... that's what 2-Dimentional characters boil down to. How do we make them 3-Dimentional?
The theory: Every character has a dream, something they want to accomplish more than anything, before the conflict in the story presents itself. Characters have to work out the pattern of their dream while dealing with resolving the plot at the same time - two stories in one! The pre-conflict pattern looks like this:
Look at this mad Paint skills!
Now for the 3-Dimentional part ...
What if the character's dream is influenced by fear?
"Don't take my last waffle!"
Let's say a character is in line to inherit his father's billion-dollar business. He is scared to death of the stocks and responsibility. His goal (dream) is to find a way out or have someone run the business for him. Obstacles will get in the way, adding fear upon fear.
Complicated character, huh? I like it!
Or maybe someone wants to be a solider - not to protect the country, but to prove he is brave. Let's see what happens to that bravery when war starts.
It is a cycle - it never ends. Even when the story is finished, the cycle is never fully resolved. Even if that dream is attained, there's that fear of losing it.
Give it try. Invent a character whose dream is based on fear. For your already established characters, ask what are they afraid of. If we know their fear, we'll know their motivation, which in turn will reflect upon what they say, do, and think throughout the whole story. And if we set this up with all our characters, with their own unique fear, imagine how diverse the voice is going to be!
This is not the rule, just my thought on the matter. I'm not even sure if this pattern exists elsewhere. All I know is this is the element my stories have lacked. Applying them to revisions has made a world of difference. If characters have something to fear, it's easier for us to sympathize with them. Get those 3D glasses ready!
Have you heard of this cycle or something like it? Found any holes in the theory? Got a pencil sharpener?
I'm David, and Loki is a "puny god."