Types of Characters in Fiction
“What drives a novel, plot or characters?”
Well, that isn’t an easy question to answer for any writer, editor, or serious reader. There is a whole lot that drives a story of a novel apart from those two aspects. But we aren’t going to get into that nitty-gritty in this article.
In the previous article, we have already seen what’s what is a plot and how to write one. In this article, we will understand the types of characters that are common to all novels. Let’s take a look:
These characters are the focus of the story. Most of the book will revolve around them, their goals, desires, fears and worst-case scenarios drive the core events. Central characters are driven by goals and desires and remain central to the story and plot from the start right through to the end. Protagonists, antagonists, and other dynamic characters who are the mainstays of the book form the central characters of the story.
Ian Fleming’s popular spy James Bond is an example of the heroic protagonist, this type of character follows the hero’s journey.
Villain protagonists are created to tell the story from the antagonist’s point of view. Like John Gardner’s Grendel tells the story of Beowulf from the monster’s perspective.
Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit is a great example of a supporting protagonist.
Also called supporting characters, they are just what it sounds like. They support the main characters in their conflicts and motivations. They’re as important as the major characters of your book, as they help advance the plot and play a major role in the development of the major characters. They can also serve as a medium to set the tone of the story. The relationship they share with the main characters naturally unfolds as the story advances. Minor characters disappear at some point in the book or stop being important.
Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter books is just one example, but you can recall innumerable memorable minor characters from that series of books alone. Think of more of Harry’s friends, allies and enemies…
Such characters change throughout the story. All of the mentioned characters in this article can be dynamic. Well developed characters naturally turn out to be dynamic. The change comes about through internal or external conflict that they have to deal with.
In the timeless Christmas story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge is a classic example of a dynamic character. He is introduced in the story as a crotchety, greedy old fellow. However, after the eye-opening experience with the ghosts of past, present, and future, he turns into a charitable, pleasant man
These are characters who don’t change a lot through the course of the novel. They don’t have a lot of scope in the story and their role is limited. They remain static because they have a specific purpose to play in the hero’s journey, so we don’t get to see a lot of what’s going on with these minor characters. Enemies and foils are mostly static, as they pose a threat or challenge to the main character without ever actually revealing their own.
The Oompa-Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were the workers who were imported by Willy Wonka directly from Loompaland. They take respite from chocolate-making slavery by sarcastically dispensing songs of advice.
Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice is another example of a static character.
These are well-rounded characters who are fleshed out with backstory, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Readers can get into the skin of these characters. Writers spend a considerable amount of time creating “round” characters. They actually have character arcs, unlike static and flat characters who get a one-dimensional playfield and are forgotten rather easily.
All main characters are dynamic characters as they go through a transformation from start to finish. Hamlet, Harry Potter, Lisbeth Salander, and Saleem Sinai are round characters.
Like static characters, flat characters don’t have a lot going on for them in a book. They are sculpted with few unremarkable traits, all of which may be predictable. But they do have a scope to create genuine conflict. Its someone like the waitress at the cafe who served breakfast to the murder victim for years with the same smile and greeting who knows who the assailant is.
Thomas “Tom” Buchanan from The Great Gatsby is Daisy’s immensely wealthy husband, once a member of Nick Carraway’s social club at Yale.
These are characters you’re already familiar with. You know them already through other books or other mediums such as movies, history or mythology. You’ll mostly find them in satirical or historic books. But you can find one in any book for stylistic purposes.
A thug, a town drunk, a tragic hero, a femme fatale, and an absent-minded professor are all examples of stock characters. Any more that comes to your mind? Let us know in the comments!
The term comes from old jewelers’ practice of displaying precious stones on sheets of foil to make them shine more brightly. Thus, in storytelling, a foil is a character which “illuminates” other characters. They’re used to define the relationship between a plot’s “antagonist” and “protagonist”. A foil is instrumental in making the readers understand the traits, motivations, and attributes of other characters.
Draco Malfoy was a foil to Harry Potter, a rude, bigoted, arrogant and generally horrible throughout most of the series, antithetical to what Harry is.
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