Depth is a vast word, a sea of information created of layers. It is complex, intense, and profound. Characters with depth feel solid, alive, as real as your best friend.
To achieve a sense of depth, we begin with simplicity. Each character’s sub-story must be built upon who these characters think they are.
One of the most useful seminars I’ve ever attended was given by a Romance writer. He is a strong proponent of assigning verbs and nouns to each character at the outset as a way to get inside their heads.
If there is one thing Romance authors understand, it is how to create a strong impression of character.
When I plan a character, I make a simple word picture of them. The word picture is made of a verb and a noun, the two words that best describe each person. We want to know the good things about these characters, so we assign nouns that tell us how they see themselves at the story’s outset.
We also look at sub-nouns and synonyms, so put your thesaurus to work. In my book, Julian Lackland, I had four characters with significant roles, so I assigned them nouns that describe their principal defining quality.
This noun is the core characteristic thread that stays with them, is challenged by events, and either wins in the end or is their downfall.