Writing Exercise: Fleshing Out Your Characters

Diane Callahan
6 min readApr 23, 2020

Characters sometimes hover between two-dimensional and three-dimensional. By identifying the hidden depths of ourselves and the people we create, writers can bring fully realized human beings into existence.

One way to flesh out your characters is through Memories, Identities, and Secrets. You can answer these questions about yourself first to see how the details of your life reveal the larger picture of who you are. Then, you can apply that level of depth to your characters.

1. Think of three memories from your past

Choose one happy, one sad, and one mysterious memory — something that left you with an unanswered question. Be specific.

For the unanswered question, you may put something that happened in your past that you still think about, such as the identity of your birth parents, the day you decided to turn down an ice-skating career, or what happened to a teacher who was fired because of you — the lingering questions and what-if’s of your life. Here are my answers:

  • Happy Memory: Sitting on my porch in the warmth of a summer evening, eating a grape-flavored ice pop and waiting for the neighborhood kids to come over so we could play bike tag around the cul-de-sac.
  • Sad Memory: Freezing up on stage while…