I’ve heard, and said a lot of negative things about the writing of characters that are too one-dimensional. I don’t want it to seem like I’m against such a character, I’m not. There are a lot of great characters out there that are lacking in dimension.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples would be the character Javert from Les Miserables. In fact, it is his one dimensional personality that lands him the position of the villain, while a far more dynamic thief, fugitive, and fraudster becomes the hero.
He’s not so much the villain because he’s a bad person. It is more so because he comes off as indifferent. However I don’t necessarily think that this is necessarily his own fault. What little we know of his life and background has left him with a very rudimentary view of right and wrong. He has a very strict adherence to the law, giving no leeway for interpretation, leniency, or apathy…. He has an extremely unwavering faith in the morality and overall ‘correctness’ of the law.
And we’ve seen where such staunch adherence to it leads to…
(How mad must the officer have been after the judge turned the case into a comedy routine.)
Now this is an example of a one-dimensional character. He has a basic view of right and wrong which, like iron is solid, but when you apply enough pressure, it becomes brittle and breaks. That’s what happens with Javert his interpretation of right and wrong was challenge where he was put into the position of having to do wrong to do right. This is something that, in his world view, shouldn’t be possible. Unable to cope with his reality being shattered and either unable or unwilling to change with it, he kills himself.
This is an example of a one dimensional character done correctly. We not only see the dangers of having such a view of the world and/or personality, but we also what can happen when they are so rigid. It’s actually a fascinating character study to do.
So is there a place for one-dimensional characters? Absolutely there is and they can be written very well. The problem is when a character is put on screen for one purpose and isn’t really given any justification as to why they exist the way they do or how it came to be that way. There’s no issue with characters being one-dimensional, as long as there is something in them that we can understand and view as really happening.
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