Creating Diverse Layers For Your Characters – Tips From Alex Wong of So You Think You Can Dance


Photo by jonathanma

Flicking through TV Channels sometimes draws us into a show we don’t always watch. That’s exactly what happened to me a few years ago with an incredibly talented So You Think You Can Dance Season.

As you follow the journey of this young dancer, be thinking about your characters and how to show their layers; their professional side, their emotional side, their playful side, etc.

The first time I saw Alex Wong audition I was impressed with his skill in his area of strength. Ballet.

Ballet is the dance he performs in day after day through his job. I expected him to be brilliant in ballet, but when we peeled back that surface layer and showcased his talent as it transcended into other areas of dance, WOW!

My first surprise came in this contemporary piece:

Alex and Allison

Beauty of expression is so alive in this dance. I had chills after the routine.  To see this emotional side of Alex as a dancer, we peeled back a layer.

Impressed with both dancers’ skill, I wanted to see what was next. There was nothing to prepare me for this next routine.

I figured ballet to hip hop? No Way!

This absolutely blew me away:

Alex and Twitch

Who would have thought a ballet dancer had this kind of depth in him? This routine just amazes me still every time I see it. What incredible talent.

Creating Diverse Layers For Your Characters:

Watching Alex Wong’s journey as a dancer through this Season up until his injury was amazing. Each week you saw a different dimension of his personality and emotions, not to mention incredible talent.

We need to create diverse layers for our characters, too. The kind of layers that a reader loves. Here are a few tips:

Act One

*Layer One: Show who they are known as by others. Basics of who they are and what they believe. Show what they really want in life. Show what part of them needs transformation.

Act Two

*Layer Two: Add depth to your character by peeling back who they are to show their motivations, fears, uniqueness, endearing qualities, and their ability to have fun. Unravel a few surprises for your reader about who they are and why. Show the small changes they are making toward the final transformation.

Act Three

*Layer Three: Add that surprise that we maybe didn’t know or understand about the character completely. Show their struggle with overcoming their challenges. Show their soft side that allows them to care for others in a way that is unexpected. Show the final result of their transformation.

There are many layers to a character that can be unraveled a piece at a time, but the layers above are a simple way to create a basic break down.

Have you ever had someone surprise you like Alex Wong did me, or did someone change in a way that amazes you?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

6 thoughts on “Creating Diverse Layers For Your Characters – Tips From Alex Wong of So You Think You Can Dance

  1. This is just what I need as I work on my next book!

  2. Melissa Tagg says:

    These are great tips, MIchelle. I love the part in your second tip about letting us see minor changes in the character as he/she is on the way to their final transformation. I love seeing characters change bit by bit!

  3. Loved this post! I’ve been considering how to add more depth to one of my characters and this post gave me just the nudge and inspiration I needed. 🙂

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