These terms constitute the main character types found in short stories and novels. Read the definitions and learn the key characteristics of each type. For further explanations and examples, click on the terms.
ROUND CHARACTERS are characters who are complex and realistic; they represent a depth of personality which is imitative of life. They frequently possess both good and bad traits, and they may react unexpectedly or become entangled in their own inner conflicts.These characters have been fully developed (physically, mentally, and emotionally) by an author and are detailed enough to seem real.Protagonists (the main character) are normally round characters.
FLAT CHARACTERS are distinguished by their lack of a realistic personality. A flat character often only has one or two defining traits, though occasionally a flat character may have several defining characteristics, the character falls short of the complexity associated with a round character
A DYNAMIC CHARACTER is one who changes significantly during the course of the story. Changes considered to qualify a character as dynamic include changes in personality or understanding, changes in commitment, changes in values or morality. Changes in circumstance, even physical circumstance, do not apply unless they result in some change within the character. The protagonist is nearly always a dynamic character.
A STATIC CHARACTER does not undergo significant change. They remain basically unchanged throughout an entire work. Whether round or flat, their personalities and values remain essentially stable throughout the course of the story. This is commonly done with secondary characters in order to let them serve as thematic or plot elements.
A STOCK or STEREOTYPED CHARACTER is one which relies heavily on cultural types or names for his or her personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are narrowly defined, often by one exaggerated trait.
A FOIL is a character that contrasts with another character, usually the protagonist, and so highlights various facets of the main character's personality. A foil usually has some important characteristics in common with the other character, such as superficial traits or personal history. Authors typically use the foil to throw the character of the protagonist into sharper relief.