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Ever find that your characters lack dimension?  That they seem more like cardboard cutouts than real people?


Or maybe you find the opposite – your characters are so alive they do or say things you didn’t expect.

As a writer, you’ve probably experienced both.

Even if you’re not a writer, I imagine there are plenty of people you’ve met that you just didn’t get.  Some of them might keep everything hidden away, a mystery.  You might inaccurately assume they have no personality.  Some of them might say or do things that you don’t understand.  But everyone has some kind of hidden motivation.

Here’s an interesting quote that I think sums up what I’m talking about:

Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something. (H. Jackson Brown Jr.)

So when you’re writing, or even if you’re just trying to understand the people around you, here are a few considerations.

What are they afraid of?

We’re not talking about the dark or heights here.  Of course, that might come into play, but we’re talking deeper.  Gary Smalley in his book The DNA of Relationships says that everyone is ultimately afraid of either being controlled or being detached from other people.  That fear plays out in various ways: fear of failure, fear of being belittled, etc.  If you really want to dig into this idea, try going through the Core Fears Test, answering the questions on behalf of your characters.

What do they love?

It might not be the obvious.  Don’t make your villains love puppies and kittens just to make them sympathetic.  (I was actually requested to do this once.  Needless to say I found a subtler way.)  Maybe they love a family member.  Maybe they love an object.  Maybe they just love themselves.  Find out what it is.

What have they lost?

Make this significant, but not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind.  Maybe it was a loved one, but maybe not.  Maybe it was a quality, like innocence.  Maybe it was an ability they used to have.  Get creative on this, and don’t shy away from pain.  Remember that trouble is the life of a story.

Hopefully that helps you take your characters from cookie cutters to unique individuals.  Or, if you’re not a writer, that it helps you better understand yourself and those around you.


Today’s my 13th wedding anniversary.  I’m so grateful for every year we celebrate, especially given the state of marriage these days.  But it’s much more personal than that.


You see, we almost didn’t make it.

The first two years of our marriage nearly did us in, between my depression coming to a head and my husband’s past issues rearing their ugly head.  Now when I look back on that time I’m humbled.  And I’m thankful we didn’t give up.

You wouldn’t know how close we came to look at us now, holding hands and smooching all the time (much to the chagrin of our four kids).  Strangers mistake us for newlyweds everywhere we go.  Which is funny, because when we were newlyweds, we weren’t like that at all.

Things started out pretty promising.  We met in a Christian youth choir during our teens – literally love at first sight.  The more we got to know each other, the more convinced we were that we belonged together.  We spent long hours talking out deep spiritual and relational issues over the phone, in handwritten notes, and, later, in those new-fangled things called emails.  We even discussed our ideals in a future wife/husband.

After 4 1/2 years we finally got married.  We were young (21 and 23) but we knew what we wanted.  As a young woman I felt like I’d arrived at my own personal happily-ever-after.  But I soon discovered otherwise.

It was almost the end of us – even almost the end of me.

But thankfully God didn’t leave us there.  He gave us the strength to move past all the hurt and disappointment.  So now we can say we really are happily married.  Now we have three daughters to add to our son who otherwise wouldn’t have been born.

I could easily wish that we didn’t have to go through that pain.  But I don’t.  It was through those days of testing that we both grew in our faith, in our character, and in our love.  And now we can help other people going through the same things.


It’s like any good story: without trouble, you can’t fully appreciate the good.  Click to Tweet

You are loved.

No, I really mean it.  You are loved.

Don’t we all want to know that?  To be totally known by someone else and still accepted and loved despite our flaws?


Just take a look at the millions of fairy tales and books and movies and songs through the centuries that address just this question.  Whole industries hinge on this one universal human need.
Ok, so we’ve heard it before.  We’ve read it, seen it, listened to it.  But we still want more.  Why?  Because there is not a single person who can fill that need.
We’re all flawed human beings in a broken world.  We’re incapable of loving like that.  We can’t even love ourselves like that!
You could spend your whole life looking for that kind of love in a person, in a book, in a pet.  But you won’t find it there.
There is only One who loves like that.  He’s the reason I wrote my book Otherworld.  He’s the reason I’ll keep writing.  One message . . .
You are loved.