What does it mean for a character to be three-dimensional? I seriously don’t understand.
How can you tell if a character is/isn’t three dimensional? Can somebody provide me with some examples and/or comparisons?
Good question, I’m sure many people have it.
I use what I like to call the “elevator test.”
Pick a character from a film. Imagine that you walk into an elevator and the only other person in that elevator is that character. Based only on what you see/saw in the film (not what you know from the book version, prior research, etc), can you have a full conversation with that character before getting out of the elevator?
If you can, that’s usually a sign that the character has been well-developed and is dimensional.
Figurative: You bet
Three dimensional is basically saying that the character comes off as a human being. One or Two dimensional means that the character is nothing more than the tropes that compose him or her. For example, the characters played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson (Bob and Scarlette) in Lost in Translation are fully 3-D characters. You feel like these could be real people and the writing and portrayal is good enough that you start to think of them as people instead of as characters.
TV Tropes has a good discussion on this: