Round vs. flat

Characters are an important part of every story. They are the vehicles to which the story rides.

The diversity of characters in a story should be great. No one character should be exactly like another. (Unless they are meant to be)  I mentioned Dynamic vs. Static characters. Within either of those groups lies another option. Round vs. Flat.

Rounded characters are full, interesting and often multi-layered in their approach. Regardless of the complication or lack of in a character I keep track of them in detail. Consistency is key to character writing.  Rounded doesn’t mean dynamic. Dynamic is changing and evolving(or de-evolving) while rounded means the character has a rich character. Often with a background story that should be reviled in a timely manner within the story. They have emotional depth and react to things and situations. The more rounded a character is the more realistic they feel to the reader.

A rounded character takes time to grow and develop. They need a lot of attention even if they are minor in the story. I like to give minor rounded characters one very distance flaw or quirk. Sometimes they get their own mini side story. For example a character that is picked on my a main character may have a breakdown or a moment of strength. They may impact the main character’s journey but not change it.  Amber picked on Rachel. I let Rachel interact with Amber, Dale and Scott and eventually Rachel stood up for herself just as Amber is starting to question her behavior and life choices. I gave Rachel a back-story, emotional responses, opinions, thoughts and feelings. She reacts to situations but isn’t a key part of them. (See ‘what if’s of imagination’)

Flat characters are the two-dimensional ones. They often have little to no impact on the story. They come and go and are there as a prop for a scene.

Examples of Flat characters
Waiter/Waitress
Counter clerk/sales person
Receptionist/concierge
Co-worker
Relatives
Police officer/fireman/paramedic
Panhandlers/Buskers
Person bumped into on bus, street etc.

Whether they are reoccurring or a one-off flat characters don’t need a lot of attention. I barely give them a presence. A general description if necessary. I don’t go in to detail over what they wear, how they look or act. These people are the cardboard cut-outs and are meant to be. I dislike very much when a flat character gets a full paragraph of introduction then absolutely nothing happens with them. They go nowhere and do nothing.  I don’t care what colour their eyes, hair, skin and clothes are if they have no impact on the story whatsoever.

My advice about flat vs. Round characters.
I often say I write what I like, what I want to read. The same is true for the opposite. Judge carefully who needs depth and who can stay in the background. Two dimensional characters tend to stay that way. If you give them more than you have to make them more.

-Sheryl

Related Posts

 The “What ifs” Of Imagination

Squeaky Clean

Wisely Perpetrating Gullibility

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9 thoughts on “Round vs. flat

  1. I’ve read stories where the barista made a massive impact through a few words on a main character through one little sentence, even though it was inconsequential at the time, the impact came into play with the main character’s ongoing dilemma. Loved this, Sheryl. Timely and appropriate to all writers. So appreciate your input.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy reading your posts. They are very helpful.

    I’ll confess that much of my story-telling is autobiographical. I tell the story from just my perspective. Looking at my work, I guess many people would appear flat compared to me. Maybe that says something negative about me. I should work on developing rounder characters in my stories.

    Liked by 1 person

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