How to Give Characters Exciting Depth

The TV show Breaking Bad is a great example of a story where the idea of something called a super-objective comes into play. A super-objective is something you as the author know about your character, which the character may not even know about him/herself. It’s the character’s greatest wish in life. The aim of his life.

One of the reasons Breaking Bad captivated people so much was because the main character, Walter White, had a strong super-objective of which he himself was entirely unaware. He starts cooking meth because he thinks all he wants to do is make enough money to pay for his cancer treatments. But soon, that’s not enough. White wants more and more money … and power. He wants a hell of a lot, which is a surprise, because heretofore Walter White has been such an unassuming character. He didn’t seem like he “had it in him.”

The series captivates viewers because indeed, the longer we watch it, the more we learn about Walter White. While he insists his objective is just to pay for his cancer treatment, we can tell that’s not his goal at all. He is a man who has been disempowered, stolen from, cheated, and mocked all his life. Now, he wants power. All the power he can get. As viewers (at least at first), we want that for him, too. His true goal in life emerges slowly through the seasons of the show, which is one of the things the authors do to give the story layers. So, if you want to write characters with a lot of depth, consider giving them super-objectives of which they are actually unaware. In other words, what they think they want doesn’t turn out to be what they actually want, deep down.

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