I am new to the site, so please let me know if I'm not following proper format or etiquette.

I am beginning a story (only 4,000 words so far). I am having trouble adding in characters that can be developed, because the protagonist doesn't really have friends, just people she smokes with, and she isn't close with her family.

The loneliness she feels and the amounts of time she spends lost in her head are integral to the story, but are making it hard for me to add other characters that I can develop past being two-dimensional.

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    Does your story need more characters? Or do you think "I have to add more characters because she doesn't have any friends"? Jan 12, 2017 at 18:54

6 Answers 6


Who is your character forced to interact with? If your character needs to go to work or school, then you have a whole host of potential characters. Even if you're sticking to your character's perspective very tightly, there are likely people that she sees every day who grow and change around her. If this smoking is the kind that takes place outside, then she likely sees the same people passing by regularly. If she doesn't have to go to work, where is her money coming from? If it's from somebody she knew who passed, memories may play an important role in her life. If she's on the dole (literally or figuratively), she has to interact with government workers or other patrons.

How does your character cope with not knowing people? If the character's really in pretty total isolation, she would likely find ways to add characters to her own life. I can't say whether they'd be two-dimensional or not, though. If your character has pets, maybe she's anthropomorphizing them. If your character watches a lot of TV, she may be developing relationships with regular protagonists, newscasters, and so on. She may have imaginary friends. She may have conversations with and imagine the lives of people she knows or used to know in her head.

Does having more well-rounded characters actually make sense? Finally, if none of those people really have an impact on your character in a way that works, maybe that's important. It's possible that your story needs to explore what happens when somebody is deprived of real human contact of any kind of depth or when they reduce those around them to caricatures.


If her loneliness is essential to the story, I don't see this as being a problem. You don't need to add a huge cast of well-rounded characters just to have them. In fact, I think that this might end up serving your story quite well, as long as it's executed well. If it's made clear, somehow, that the main character is isolating herself, or somehow that her perceptions of the characters around her are one-dimensional, I think it would absolutely end up improving your story.


Are you writing this in first person? The choice of first person is the cause of many writing woes because it is a POV that essentially puts the writer in a box. If you are writing first person and your protagonist is withdrawn and friendless, any people she meets are going to be two dimensional to her, and thus two dimensional to the reader as well, since the reader can only see them through her eyes.

Now, this might be a legitimate way to tell her story. The characters do not become three dimensional to us until she reaches some epiphany and they become three dimensional to her.

But if that is not what you want to do, then write in the third person. The difficulty goes away at once because not you can turn the narrator's focus, and thus the reader's attention, to the secondary characters and make them as lively and well rounded as you like.

Half the help-I'm-stuck questions on this site come down to the author having made choices about POV that don't fit with the story they are trying to tell, so I am guessing that is the case here too. If not, please clarify your question and I will update the answer accordingly.


One doesn't have to be alone to be lonely.

One can have 1000 facebook friends and not have a real friend. In fact the more facebook friend one has, the lonelier one is likely to be. It is a sign of a desperate need to connect.

One can pack one's schedule with parties, outings, and meetups and yet be totally alone.

After all, why do you think your main character is lonely?

Loneliness is a feeling that comes from mainly 2 things: 1) the desire to connect and the inability to do so, and 2) the feeling of envy of those who have formed those connections.

With that in mind, you can introduce a TON of characters.

And those characters can actually help you flesh out her feeling of isolation.


Have parts of the story be in the point of view of characters you add, not just your main character. This way, you can show how the character thinks as well as act, and you can expand upon your current characters by having the added character express their opinion of them, whether in thoughts or aloud.


With the help of meaningful subplots that contribute to the story's central theme(s). Either have these new characters interact with the main cast, or keep them entirely separate. Both ways work, but having all characters interact with the main cast binds the story together.

For example - in a story about WWII with an Allied soldier as a protagonist, you might have subplots including the Germans, innocent citizens or perhaps other Allied soldiers. Introduce a citizen in distress, only to be helped somewhere by the main protagonist. The intersecting paths work very well for most of the time. Your main motive must be to create order out of the thematic narrative. Daily life is often not ordered at all, and quite unpredictable, but you can't do that in a story. So just go ahead, make mistakes - choose the wrong characters, go back and write them out, and come up with new ones. Or just edit along the way as you see fit.

Leave some of the story out of the planning and let it grow organically. Introduce characters along the way. Write a story like you are reading it. Make it interesting - and go along with your impulse if you want to introduce a particular character.

All that aside, this is your idea, and hence your puzzle to work out - only then will your story be original. Don't worry if you get stuck - that's the job!

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