flat and round characters, or characters that are described by how they evolve throughout a literary work. Flat characters are two-dimensional in that they are largely straightforward and remain the same throughout a work. Round characters, on the other hand, are complex and go through development, sometimes to the reader’s surprise.
“What is a Flat Character vs a Round Character?”: A Literary Guide for English Students and Teachers
Characteristics of round characters
Round characters often have some of the following features:
They have a complex personality
Round characters are complex and cannot be characterized by a single character quality. Instead of just being nice, they might also be intelligent, perceptive, and have a dry sense of humor. Readers frequently discover personal information about characters as the story progresses, including their inspirations, biographies, objectives, fears, and passions.
They change over time.
Round characters develop in much the same way that people do in real life. They frequently experience some kind of change or emotional development as a result of the events in the story. Their personality may not always change, but they might come to a major realization that fundamentally alters how they initially felt or believed.
They have internal conflicts
The authors reveal the internal conflicts or struggles that the characters go through when creating round characters. These conflicts shed light on the characters’ intentions, principles, and feelings. These specifics aid readers in comprehending and empathizing with the characters.
They are realistic
Since no one is perfect in real life, neither are fictional round characters. These characters are flawed and occasionally contradict themselves, which gives them a more realistic appearance. Readers may find them more compelling or easier to relate to as a result. Despite the fact that their story is set in a fantasy world, their actions are plausible or logical. If a terrifying event happens, they will react with fear; if not, the author offers explanations as to why.
What is a round character?
A fictional character with depth or a complex personality is referred to as a “round character.” Because readers learn so much about this kind of character, including their background, thoughts, feelings, and personality traits, they perceive them as realistic. Because of these insights, the reader is more drawn to such characters and feels more invested in their journey as a result. The protagonist of a fictional work is frequently, but not always, a rounded character.
Round vs. flat characters
While authors give round characters multiple dimensions, this is not the case for flat characters. Instead, these characters frequently exhibit some of the following antagonistic traits:
They are uncomplicated
Typically, a flat character can be summed up in one word or sentence. They play the same part in the story, and the reader doesn’t learn anything new about them. For example, a flat character could be the “neighborhood bully. The reader does not understand the motivations behind them; they are only shown acting cruelly and torturing the main character.
They only have external conflicts
Readers only notice the external struggles of flat characters, as opposed to round characters. For instance, the way they interact with or engage in conflict with other characters Readers are not privy to their internal conflict or emotional turmoil. Any insights into a flat character are strictly surface level.
They often do not change
Most flat characters play the same part at the beginning and the end of a fictional work. Though readers sometimes see them change with some limitations. For instance, the local bully might mature at the conclusion of the tale by repenting of their behavior or acting kinder. The readers, however, are not privy to the bully’s inner thoughts or motivations that produced such a change.
Despite having less depth or dimension than round characters, flat characters still have a place in fiction. Some authors prefer to write plot-driven stories, which can make their characters flat because they are only used to advance the plot. Additionally, a flat character frequently serves as a conflict for the protagonist. Conflict can reveal the protagonist’s character’s depth and provide learning opportunities. The protagonist’s depth and lifelikeness are also revealed to readers when contrasted with the flat counterpart.
How to create a round character
The following advice can be used as a guide when developing rounded characters in literary works:
Determine the basics of the character
Write round characters as real people and develop foundational information about them. Consider how they appear, and you might try mentioning specifics like their hair or clothing choices. You and your readers will be able to visualize the character thanks to your descriptions. As a result, the character feels more real. Sometimes, their physical characteristics can even influence other facets of their personality, giving them more depth.
You can include fundamental information about the character’s life in addition to their appearance. This information includes their name, age, location and job. Similar to how a character appears, these particulars offer insights into them and may have an effect on how they act. Make sure to keep these particulars realistic, or at the very least, apply logic to your choices. Unless you mention that a struggling artist lives with their wealthy aunt, for instance, readers might find it difficult to believe that they are a struggling artist who rents a luxury New York City apartment.
Develop their background
Round characters must have a sense of history in order for them to be realistic and lifelike. Even though your story may begin at a specific point in the lives of your characters, you can show how they got there. Explicitly describing a person’s upbringing or environment can shed light on why they act or think the way they do. For instance, you can use it to explain why your character has resisted marriage if they had divorced parents as children. Because everyone has a history, including this information gives the character depth.
Everybody experiences conflict at some point in their lives, whether it be internal or external. Readers might not find a character with a perfect life appealing because they are unable to identify with that circumstance. Conflicts give readers a reason to root for a character if they can relate to them. By overcoming a challenge, they might learn something new about themselves, like strengths they had no idea they possessed.
Insights into a character’s personality can also be gained from how they respond to conflict. While a brave character confronts the issue’s instigator head-on, a shy character may be depicted as avoiding conflict with others. Additionally, since rounded characters frequently change throughout a story, you could show how their actions alter to show character development. For instance, the once-shy character might act bolder at the conclusion of the story.
Describe their motivations
Either go scene by scene or determine your characters’ motivations overall for the story. These motives explain not only what the character does but also why they do it. Such insights can be gained by readers by getting a glimpse into their thoughts through narration. Otherwise, the characters motivations can come through in their actions. When your character must make a decision, concentrating on their motivations will help you make their actions more realistic.
For instance, almost all of your protagonist’s actions should be driven by her quest to locate her missing daughter. For greater realism, you might also need to take into account aspects of the character’s background or personality. Consider which potential choices fit the character the best. Consider whether it makes sense to have this mother climb to the top of a building if she is afraid of heights.
Surround them with other characters
Explicit descriptions of characters’ relationships and interactions with others can also provide additional information about them. In addition to their interactions and dialogue, there are other ways besides narration to tell the story. Other characters can share fresh information that readers otherwise wouldn’t learn.
Spending time with certain people can reveal a lot about a person’s personality or interests. Additionally, anyone your character must interact with can influence their mood or present a source of conflict. It’s not necessary for a round character to be surrounded by others; the fact that they prefer to be by themselves can reveal a lot about them.
The following examples represent well-known round characters in fictional works:
Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series
When Snape first debuted, he was a fairly one-dimensional character. He was the harsh teacher who acted as an adversary for Harry Potter. His character started to take on layers as the book series went on, revealing different facets of his personality. He wasn’t always cruel; on occasion, he showed Harry and the other students kindness and acts of protection. Eventually, readers see Snapes past from his perspective. They comprehend his motivations for acting in a certain way because of this narrative choice.
Marlin from Finding Nemo
The Finding Nemo movie follows Marlin as he embarks on a quest to find his son, who has gone missing. Viewers discover that Marlin lost all but Nemo of his family. Without saying it explicitly, this incident shows the source of the pair’s close relationship and Marlin’s protective and unsettling nature. Marlin experiences conflict throughout the entirety of the movie as he searches for Nemo, and those incidents, as well as the sea life he encounters along the way, influence his personality to become more playful and optimistic.
Hamlet from Hamlet
Hamlet is a multifaceted, complex protagonist, and his monologues provide readers with a glimpse into his innermost feelings and motives. Due to the passing of his father, he experiences both internal and external conflicts regarding how he should behave. Hamlet frequently exhibits contradictory behavior, just like a real person. He acts as if he loves the character Ophelia at one point while also demonstrating his contempt for her at another. Although he has thoughtful or undecided inner thoughts, he occasionally makes rash decisions.
What is round character example?
In a book, play, or story, a round character is one with a complex personality. Like real people, they have depth in feelings and passions. For instance, the protagonist of the movie “Shrek” remarks, “‘Ogres are like onions,” implying that what they perceive is not the only truth.
Which character is a round character?
A round character in a work of fiction is a significant figure who frequently serves as the protagonist. Conflict is encountered by this type of character, and it transforms them. Compared to flat characters, which are incidental, round characters typically have more depth.