Sanderson Lecture 5 – Character

I am really enjoying Sanderson’s course. He systematically goes through the elements of fiction and provides a solid foundation for understanding each component. In this lecture he goes into Character. He centers his understanding of character around three components. Your protagonist should be Active, Competent, and Likeable.

The components of a well rounded character, according to Sanderson are:


Superhero cartoon vector charactersLikeability means that the reader sees something of herself in the character. It includes giving real life concerns to the character. So if your character is a student then give them the desire to get homework done or something from real life.

You should also give the character something that she or he really wants that is not connected to the story. He wants a raise or she wants a new car. Whatever it is, this provides a realness to the character.

Give the character fears, kindness, and friends. Finally, when all else fails, make the character get picked on. This helps to provide an instant connection to many of us who have felt such things in our lives.


The character should be active and not passive. If the character is not active, then things will not get done. Make them have something that they are passionate and capable of doing.


Make them competent about something. If they are not competent in anything than the character will not provide the wish fulfillment that is needed by the reader.

How to Make a Round Character

After talking about these three components, Sanderson then moved on to talk about how to make a character “Round” versus “flat.”

You do this by giving them flaws. These are things that the character must overcome in the story. This is in contrast to handicaps which are not going to be solved in the story.

The character must have passions that are greater than the story world. You also might give them some quirks, but be careful about this. Do not let their quirks define them, they should always be greater than their quirks.

Also you want to give them experiences.

Finally, Never let the role that the character plays define them. In addition remember to ensure that every character is the hero of his own story. He or she is on a quest to do whatever that character wishes to do. Always give a sense of that even though you cannot delve into it.

In short, you make a great character by making it appear that that character has a life outside of your story. And that character is active in the story.

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