Friday, March 17, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: Three-Dimensional Writing, Part 2

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Three-Dimensional Writing, Part 2

Based on Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing (formerly titled Bring Your Fiction to Life {Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity})

This is the second of three posts dealing with three-dimensional fiction writing.

In Part 1, we talked about Present and Past Self. Let's continue.

Future Self

In contrast to backstory, the future we're talking about in respect to "future dimension" is not specifically referring to actual future events of the fictional characters we create. Nor is it a "futuristic" way of looking at what's going to happen at some point in the story of this character's life. In other words, we're not trying to show the character in a setting or situation decades in the future of the current story. Instead, the future self is about projecting forward to what may come in the future, what resolution may result at the conclusion of the story, based on the ever-evolving development of current events.

            Ask yourself these questions:

·                     What does your character want in life?

·                     What will it take to get that?

·                     What might change if she gets it?

·                     Just as important, what would happen if she doesn't get it?

·                     What's at stake? 

If you don't give characters fully fleshed out situations, conflicts, and goals and motivations for the future, you've essentially left the reader with nothing to hope for or look forward to. He won't be inspired to rage when it looks like the character might not succeed in her goals, nor will he be held in suspense waiting for the worst to happen. Whispers of the best and the worst that could happen are the very things that keep the reader engaged in the story. Don't underestimate the importance of including this in each and every scene of your story. Without an undertone of what's ahead, a reader will read each page wondering Where is all this going? What's the point of this? Is it worth reading? These hints are the very things that keep the reader engaged scene by scene.


To show future dimension of self is a way of allowing readers something to either anticipate and/or dread in terms of where the characters and story are going, as well as project possibilities, expectations, apprehensions, and anxiety about what might happen in the future at each stage in the storytelling. You want to produce suspense and outright tension, excitement, and trepidation. Bottom line, you want to create an uncertainty of outcome in every stage without creating an illogical or unsatisfactory resolution. The future dimension anchors and deepens the context for a resolution because the reader needs to be aware from one scene to the next where this story is (or may be) going, in what the direction events are unfolding, and where it may (or may not) conclude.

Obviously this is something that is constantly evolving in response to the character's own direction throughout the story. It's often been said that the beginning of a book should resonate at the end of the story. An opening scene or scenes should include, in some capacity, a hint of the character's ideal goal, what she ultimately wishes for her future. The bridge scenes that carry the middle of a story will gradually reflect or challenge this ideal as plots develop in reaction to internal and external conflicts, and as the character's goals and motivations transform. The resolution scenes will also mirror that objective, though it's unlikely that "The End" is exactly what the character envisioned at the beginning. In fact, that initial outcome is usually undesirable by the time the last scene comes, because all writers should strive for a logical—but unpredictable—ending.

The point is, without that future dimension that looks ahead toward the possible outcomes of a story, the reader won't be grounded in knowing exactly what he should be hoping for and rooting to happen. A reader who isn’t engaged is one you’ll lose sooner or later. For that reason, future dimension is as pivotal as the present and past.

All main characters need a fully fleshed-out future dimension of a character, woven in throughout scenes. Human beings desire purpose; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is at the heart of the reader's hope/dread response as a story is being told. We all have strengths and weaknesses, dreams and regrets, vices and virtues, failures and accomplishments, boundaries to set and hurdles to overcome. In combination, these will begin in our formative years; they will be the foundation of the person we currently are, and shape who we become in the future. Weaving this future dimension of self throughout a story is vitally important. Without it, there can be no satisfactory, logical—yet unpredictable—ending. If you can’t create a longing in readers for the main character to reach her story goal right from the start, to resolve with fierce motivation her conflicts and fulfill her goals, there’s no reason to read (or for the author to write) the book.

In the most condensed form, you'll see a main character’s three-dimensions seamlessly woven into nearly every story synopsis you read. To help you practice this, read a variety of back cover blurbs from published books and try to pinpoint which aspects are present, past and future self of the main character. Once you can identify them, try to write your own story summaries with the three dimensions in mind.

Without each of these “self” dimensions clearly defined before you start writing your story, your characters may end up two-dimensional at best—they’ll have shape without form. In the ideal, you’ll know your characters, plots and settings so well before you begin the multi-layered task of bringing the book to fruition, the groundwork for three-dimensional writing will be laid out and just waiting for you to root deeply into each scene you write.

In Part 3, we'll talk about adding depth and dimension to your story scenes.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing

Volume 5 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

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