Flatman and Ribbon may work well as characters in a kid’s joke (think superheroes, steamroller…), but reader-grabbing prose calls for multi-dimensional characters. One often overlooked way to develop more interesting characters is by showing how social status affects feelings, thoughts, and behavior. In real life, an individual’s status is fluid, shifting according to specific relationships. Think about how your own words and actions vary when you interact with higher-status people (i.e., anyone who has some measure of power over you) and with equal- or lower-status people. Now think about your story characters in terms of status relationships.
A flat character tends to be static in attitude, emotions, and behavior—no matter what happens, she is always angry or happy or ruthless or passive or snide…. For your reader, a flat character soon becomes predictable and boring.
A well-rounded character, in contrast, is fluid. Her attitude, emotions, and behavior change as she interacts with other characters who have higher, equal, or lower real or perceived status. And she may surprise us—and get into trouble!—by violating the expected conventions.
Your protagonist and your antagonist should both enjoy relatively high status—they should be evenly matched as worthy adversaries. Remember that your protagonist cannot control her status relative to other characters but she can control how she responds to them. Choices matters more than circumstances in conveying character–stillness, confidence, courage, and moral groundedness all raise status in readers’ eyes. Needless movement, lack of confidence, unwarranted violence, cowardice, lack of a moral compass all lower status. Your protagonist should never make choices that lower her status below that of her antagonist.
About Sheila Webster Boneham: Sheila’s mystery novels have been praised by Kirkus Reviews for  “smart characters and intricate plots.” Sheila, who has published 21 books and hundreds of short stories, articles, essays, and poems, believes that good writing is good writing, no matter where it is shelved, and she has written award-winning work for academic, literary, and commercial markets. Sheila has taught writing and coached writers for more than 30 years. She holds a PhD from Indiana University and MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast/University of Southern Maine. Find her online at sheilaboneham.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/sheilawrites.

For our silent auction, Sheila Boneham is offering a signed copy of The Money Bird (book 2 of the award winning Animals in Focus Mystery Series)  and a signed copy of Shepherds Crook (book 4 of the award winning Animals in Focus Mystery Series).
When you bid on this item you get a chance to score some awesome writerly goods while helping us continue to bring quality literary programming to the Eugene community. Your support creates opportunities for more community education classes, places more writers in the schools, and creates scholarships for young writers. It’s a win-win!
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