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Let's suppose you have a character that's cliche, boring, and uninspired. Would you call the character one-dimensional, or two-dimensional?

Both uses seem to make sense to me. For example, if a character only has one primary motivation (he's a nerd, he's strong, he's dumb, he's evil), you might say his personality is one-dimensional (as in, he only has a single "aspect" to his character).

Likewise, you might describe him as two-dimensional, implying that he is a flat character (ie. the character lacks depth).

Which is the correct expression?

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  • It's one less than the medium. :)
    – SrJoven
    Oct 3, 2014 at 3:22

3 Answers 3

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The most common term is one-dimensional.

I did a search on JSTOR, and virtually every single result (well, the first two pages, I got bored) for two-dimensional character was for either mathematics/physics/science articles or for articles on art pieces (in both cases, literal second dimensions).

Searching for one-dimensional character brought quite a number of literature articles into the fold (along with the literal references in math/art).

I'm a literature guy (thought I don't work in the English language), and I frankly, calling a character two- or three-dimensional just sounds odd. I'd just call someone one-dimensional when they lack the qualities of a normal character, and perhaps say something about another character having (more) depth, that is, more dimensions.

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  • JSTOR? Also, this seems like the most credible answer since you have sources, but can you link to your searches? Oct 3, 2014 at 14:57
  • @MatthewNeuteboom JSTOR is a database of scholarly articles. Unfortunately, access to it is not free and I don't know if searches are available to everyone since I'm automatically logged in on campus. I've added a link to the searches, though. If you're on a university campus, you probably just click the link, or if you're affiliated with a university, there is probably a proxy login to use. Oct 3, 2014 at 15:04
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A character without depth is "flat" and two-dimensional, as a piece of paper as opposed to a block of wood. "One-dimensional" could only be used to describe something that has a single defining characteristic. In my opinion, a character's thinking or motivation might be one-dimensional, but the character could only be called two-dimensional.

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  • Yes, it's a metaphor problem. Oct 3, 2014 at 4:40
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If he's boring because the writer has written about him in a boring way, he's one dimensional.

If he's boring because that's his actual personality, he's two-dimensional.

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