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Round and Flat Characters In Writing

Characters are one of the most important aspects of a narrative. The plot wraps around characters, and decisions made by them push the story forward. 

Although there are several character archetypes, in a broad sense, characters are divided into two types: Round characters and Flat characters. As a writer, it is important to know where to use each type of character and the difference between the two.

Round Characters:

In real life, people are complicated. They are multi-faceted, and their personality is a result of their upbringing and past trauma. Round characters are those characters who portray the complications and multifacetedness of real people. They have depth and feel ranges of human emotions. They are multi-dimensional, and therefore, they are flawed as all human beings are. What makes round characters intriguing and believable is the relatability factor. These characters are lifelike, and readers might find a reflection of themselves in these characters. These characters are so real and authentic that they could exist in the real world. 

The common misconception about round characters is that they have a major change in their worldview or perspective by the end of the story. This fact is not entirely true. While round characters might go through character development during the story, that is not their defining characteristic. Their defining characteristics are their depth, complexity, and multifacetedness. To write a round character, the writer needs to detail them minutely and provide an intricate backstory that explains their actions in the timescape of the narrative.

Flat Characters

Stories need a multitude of characters to further the plot. Not all characters can be very intricately defined or go through character development. Flat characters are those characters that are mostly one-dimensional without much backstory. They are supporting characters that are secondary to the main characters. They are often seen as allies to the hero or cronies of the villain. Flat characters lack depth and remain unchanged through the course of the book. They do not have any perspective. They are generally uninteresting and dull because readers cannot find common ground with the characters. Flat characters are common in plot-driven stories to not divert the reader from the plot. Even though flat characters are lesser, it does not mean that they add nothing to the plot. They are written, especially, to shed light on the main characters. They might be one-dimensional, but that only means that they are easily understandable. Since flat characters don’t have any complexities, their goals are very straightforward.

Round and Flat characters have nothing to do with the writer’s ability. A flat character is not necessarily a badly written character. They have a purpose in the story too. And to make the story worth it, not all the characters need to be well defined. 

The use of round and flat characters also depends on the type of story, whether it is a character-driven or a plot-driven story. While round characters are very interesting to read, they wouldn't shine without the flat characters.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Manik Chaturmutha