In one of the books I have on writing, the author says that in order to tell a good story, you need to create characters with three layers. I forget exactly what those are, but I just want to write a fictional narrative in scriptural historical style without worrying so much about all the elements that teachers tell us to put in our fiction.

It is really necessary to work that much on characterization to tell a good story?

  • Generally speaking, yes. Remember, Ogres are like Onions.
    – Alexander
    Sep 21, 2020 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


I think if you're writing a narrative in scriptural historical style, (and to be honest, I have no idea what that entails) then characterize your characters to the extent expected by that style. I'm assuming that style is not what modern or contemporary fiction is usually written in (correct me if I'm wrong), so there doesn't really need to be an expectation of contemporary characterization in that style. If anything, do your research on characters written into narratives of that style and the expectancy of characterization of said characters and then use that as a jumping off point for the level of characterization you want to achieve.

To be honest, most teachers who teach fiction writing are so self-fellating that they would prefer 100 pages of character description and characterization (minus any other story elements) over 100 pages of a good and efficient story. Heavy handed characterization (what a fiction writing teacher would say is good characterization) is neither sufficient nor necessarily necessary for a good story. It comes down to your intent, the style you're writing in, and what kind of "picture" you want your audience to get when they read it. If you want your audience to picture what they assume a "Carrie", for example, would be characterized as based solely on their experiences with a "Carrie", then characterization can take a back seat to other story elements.

  • Not all writing teachers have the required anatomy... (okay, okay, I suspect almost no writing teachers have the required anatomy, but you know what I mean) :P Sep 20, 2020 at 12:27

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