Character Definitions

character definitions characters Oct 06, 2020

In a previous blog, you learned about the types of characters in fiction. From main characters and protagonists, antagonists and foils, major and minor characters, narrators and more. Character Types determine and describe the role that your character plays in relation to the other characters.

Another way to understand your Characters is by Definition. Definition describes the ways that your character behave on the page, and the ways that they do and don't reflect what it happening around them.

There are four definitions of Characters in fiction:

  • Round 
  • Flat
  • Dynamic
  • Static

 

Round characters are nuanced, well-rounded, with diversity of character. Flat characters are not nuanced, typically only known by one characteristic.

Dynamic characters evolve with the story, they change as circumstances require. Static characters do not - often because the author determines that regardless of what happens, that character or characters should remain steadfast in their character, beliefs and behaviors.

A really interesting example of character definitions is to examine the four sisters in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. This classic story of young womanhood features four very different young women. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are close but often in conflict, young but sometimes quite wise.

Meg, Jo and the youngest, Amy are each rounded characters. They are whimsical, they are susceptible to what is happening around them, they cannot be boiled down to a single characteristic or two.

Meg, Jo and Amy are also dynamic characters. Each grows and changes, each must confront their own demons, each evolves with the story around them.

What is fascinating to me is that 3rd sister Beth is neither round nor dynamic. Beth is a flat, static character. She's still a major character of Little Women as all four sisters are, and yet she lacks the dynamism we typically associate with a major character. Beth is also one of the most beloved characters of fiction.

It really makes you think about the fact that Alcott had the ability to write a flat, static character and yet make us love her so much. That's called talent. It's also an important lesson for each of us: not all of our characters will be well-rounded. Not all will grow. When mapping out each of characters, take a look at their definitions. When you come to a stumbling block, those definitions will help you proceed with writing their story.

Which of your characters should be well-rounded; which should be flat?

Why would your characters be dynamic or evolve with your story; what would be the reason why some of your characters don’t evolve?

Characters should reflect their stories and therefore, what happens within them. Don't just throw a character - round, flat, static or dynamic - onto the page. Instead, let the events of the story determine whether they should be well-rounded or rather simplistic, whether they evolve with the story and refuse to budge.

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