ARTICLE #10 - Developing Believable Characters PART FOUR
The enormity of variations amongst human personalities makes for a pool of opportunity in developing a personality type for your character. Usually, once you’ve conceive an idea for a story, your character’s personality falls into place. But the question is: How do you make that personality real whereby it comes to life for the reader. It takes building and developing that persona into the character type best portrayed for the role they carry within the tale. Doing so may not be as easy as presumed.
Character types are amongst the various elements of literature used in the many forms of writing. Although psychology has defined particular personality types, each of us are unique; no one is actually typical. Your main, and supporting characters, must be distinctive. This human quality of distinctiveness is what will make your story different from anyone else’s.
Let’s evaluate where we are. You’ve done your story outpouring and made notes for further ideas on plot and character development. You’ve interviewed your main character and all other major players in your evolving story; perhaps you’ve even taken time to write a short bio on your protagonist and any other major contributing characters.
In this article, we will investigate the varying character types found in fictional and non-fictional writings. Beware though, whatever is the character type that you present in your story, it must maintain reader-appeal and interest.
Main or Central Character(s): The main or central character and central supporting characters are essential to the direction and depth of conflict within a story. This can be seen in the popular book series such as Harry Potter. In this series, you find the leading character, Harry Potter, alongside the strong supporting characters, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, at the center of the plot and subplots’ development. The trio is instrumental in finding resolutions to the conflicts that arise throughout the sequence of novels. Without these central and supporting characters there would be no point-of-view, as seen through Harry eyes, or central-story interest.
Minor Character or Characters: Minor characters are supplemental players that serve to round out the plot, moving the story forward, and to foil the key characters of your tale.
Below is a simplified listing of the major categories of character types. I will go into more detail of each afterwards. Though character types are categorized, a character in a story may be a combination of types. For example: The main character may be round, dynamic, and the protagonist.
Dynamic – Changes over time as the story progresses.
Static – Shows no sign of change throughout the story.
Round – Has a complex personality.
Flat – Has one kind of personality trait or characteristic.
Stock – Is predictable or stereotypical.
Confidante – Someone in whom the main character trust and confides.
Foil – A personality used to augment or improve another character by using contrast.
Protagonist – The leading or most prominent figure. The hero.
Antagonist – An adversary of the hero or protagonist.
NOW LET’S EXAMINE THESE CHARACTER TYPES MORE CLOSELY
Dynamic Character: A dynamic character is synonymous with a developing character in that they are permanently changing throughout the course of the story. The changes can be seen in many ways: in their attitude towards others; or in their personality that begins to interacts more maturely with others; or through their suffering and hardships; or through conflicts and/or mistakes they make; or lessons learned through experiences; or their change in point of view for better or worse. These types of changes make their character dynamic.
Static Character: A character type that is the opposite of dynamic being that they are unchanged. The personality they present at the beginning of the story is the same one they possess at the end. They do not show inner growth or development, or changes in their point of view, motivation or habits.
Round Character: A round character is usually dynamic in that their personality is modified in some aspect over the progression of a story, such as seen in most protagonists. However, they may also reveal complex or contradictory traits; they possess the element of surprise in their actions and reactions. A round character is a complex character. He or she is a character that the reader begins to know fully as the story progresses, learning their likes and dislikes, desires, habit, family relations, culture, occupation, physical appearance, social habits and so forth.
Flat Character: A flat character type is an uncomplicated, and unchanging character exhibiting only one or possibly two traits. This is someone the reader may learn their school or job location or favorite sport, but apart from just a mere acquaintance, they learn very little more about them. The difference between flat as opposed to static characters is that the reader doesn’t know much about the flat, whereas with the static, they can know them well though the character remains unchanged throughout the story.
Stock Character: A stock character is synonymous with stereotype in characteristics; they are also flat in presentation while still reflecting true aspects of real people. The character will resemble a commonly held, fixed and simplified image of a particular type of person or group of people. For example: an overly strict teacher issuing standards to punish her class, a librarian shushing someone in the library, a nurse taking vital signs or offering comfort to a patient, a book worm, a bully accompanied by his cronies, and so on. These types are easily recognized by the reader and need no further depth in description.
Confidante Character: A confidante is someone in whom the central character can speak to openly and confide in, thus revealing the main character’s personality, thoughts, and intentions. The confidante does not need to be a person, it can be a dog, cat or even a bird. It’s someone or something the main character feels comfortable with and trust.
Foil Character: A foil character is one whose presence contrasts that of the protagonist, thus enhancing the attributes of the main character. A much-used example is that of Cinderella, the protagonist and round character the reader can identify and empathize with within the story. She is beautiful and kind to all people, animals, and even her evil stepmother, who makes her a servant in her own house. As well, she is kind to her stepsisters who mistreat her consistently. The stepmother and stepsisters are the foils of the story. Further examples are: Cassius who is foil to Brutus, Satan who is a foil to God, Mr. Hyde is a foil to Dr. Jekyll, and so on. A paired foil is the main character, or protagonist, verses their enemy, the antagonist.
Protagonist Character: The protagonist is the leading, principle character, hero or heroine of a story. The main or most prominent figure who is the advocate of the people, or the champion of a cause or ideals in fictional text, as well as drama, stage, or movies. The protagonist can be thought of as the nice guy who comes to the rescue, or the one who battles against an evil foe, the antagonist, in order to save all humanity. Most protagonist are portrayed as dynamic and round, but that is not always the case, such as in a story that is plot driven, as opposed to character driven. This is seen in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Ask yourself: Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist? There are many of each, since the story is plot driven; a competition that links strong characters, amongst whom, one will rise to take the throne. If the story is character driven, then you can ask: Who is the story about. If it’s plot driven, you’d ask: What is the story about.
Antagonist Character: An antagonist is the ruthless, merciless, or cruel, shameless, or morally depraved and debauched persona presented in a story; the foil of the protagonist. The antagonist is the origin of conflict in a story and doesn’t necessarily have to be a person. They, or it, can be a thing or an alien from outer space, such as in science fictions, or an animal, such as found in the political satire, Animal Farm, where Snowball and Napoleon are socially corrupt and are particularly antagonizing to the other animal in their community.
This concludes our lesson for this time. So, once again, cheers! It’s time to put thoughts and pen to paper as we pick up our quills and write!
C. R. Swainward