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        Different Types of Characters in Stories That Steal the Show

        • calenderApr 30, 2024
        • calender 11 min read

        Characters are the focal points of a story. Understanding the different types of characters is crucial for both readers and writers, as it enhances comprehension and storytelling ability. Whether it is a novel, a short story, or a screenplay, characters are the soul that breathes life into the plot and setting.

        In this article, we’ll delve into the different kinds of characters found in literature, stories, and fiction, offering definitions and examples to help you understand the diverse range of character types! 

        Bring your characters to life with immaculate editing!

        Let’s begin with an easy-to-understand characters in a story definition:

        What are the characters in a story?

        In literature, characters are the individuals who populate the narrative and drive the plot forward. But they’re more than just names on a page; they’re constructs through which authors convey themes, propel plots, and engage readers. 

        Have you thought about how we understand or make up our minds about a character? This character is evil or that character is good! This is because of the different traits and types of characters. Character types are categories that help in identifying how each character functions within the story.

        Types of characters in a story

        1. Protagonist

        The protagonist is the central character around whom the main plot revolves. This character is often the hero or the main figure through whom the audience experiences the story. 

        Protagonists give us a lens through which we can see the events of the story unfold. Be it Rapunzel from our beloved childhood books or Nancy Drew, the dashing heroine of mystery novels, we all put ourselves in their shoes while reading their stories.

        Some examples of protagonists are:

          • Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

        As the protagonist, Elizabeth’s wit, intelligence, and independent spirit guide the reader through the narrative, as she navigates the complexities of love, marriage, and social expectations in Regency-era England.

          • Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

        As the protagonist, Jane’s experiences, emotions, and moral convictions shape the narrative, as she faces challenges such as poverty, loss, and societal constraints.

          • Sherlock Holmes from the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

        As the protagonist, Holmes’ intellectual prowess, keen observation skills, and logical reasoning guide the reader through the mysteries and investigations that form the core of the narrative.

        2. Antagonist

        Often serving as the counterpart to the main character, the antagonist plays a crucial role in storytelling by opposing the protagonist’s goals or desires. This opposition creates tension and conflict, which in turn propels the narrative forward. Antagonists are different from anti-heroes who are protagonists portrayed by evil characters. Darth Vader from Star Wars is a well-known powerful antagonist.

        Some examples of antagonists are:

          • The Joker from The Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan.

        The Joker is a criminal mastermind who terrorizes Gotham City, serving as the primary antagonist to the protagonist, Batman.

          • Sauron from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

        Sauron is the primary antagonist of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a powerful and malevolent force seeking to dominate Middle-earth.

          • Loki Laufeyson from Marvel Comics by Stan Lee.

        Loki, the Asgardian god of mischief, is a recurring antagonist in the Marvel Comics universe, often serving as a foil to his adoptive brother, Thor, and the Avengers.

        3. Deuteragonist

        The deuteragonist is the second most important character after the protagonist, often a sidekick or a major character who has a separate but intertwined storyline. This character plays a pivotal role in shaping the plot’s development. These characters often serve as the protagonist’s confidant, offering support, and guidance, or providing contrasting perspectives that enrich the narrative’s complexity. We all love how Ron Weasley is always helping Harry Potter in the famous series by J.K. Rowling.

        Some examples of deuteragonists are:

          • Dr. John Watson in the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

        Dr. Watson is Sherlock Holmes’ trusted friend, roommate, and chronicler of his detective cases.

          • Robin in various iterations of the Batman comics by Stan Lee.

        As a deuteragonist, Robin complements Batman’s dark, brooding personality with youthful energy, optimism, and a more lighthearted approach to crime-fighting.

          • Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster.

        As a deuteragonist, Han Solo brings a sense of humor, skepticism, and practicality to the story, contrasting with Luke’s idealism and naivety.

        4. Tritagonist

        The tritagonist is the third most significant character in the story, playing a crucial role in supporting the narrative. While not as central as the protagonist or deuteragonist, the tritagonist often brings depth and complexity to the storyline. While Andy Dufresne is the central character striving for freedom, Ellis Boyd Redding serves as his loyal friend and confidant in The Shawshank Redemption.

        Some examples of tritagonists are:

          • Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

        While Peeta Mellark (the deuteragonist) is Katniss’s partner in the Hunger Games and eventual love interest, Gale remains a constant presence in her life, providing support, friendship, and a shared understanding.

          • Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

        While Harry is the protagonist and Ron Weasley can be considered the deuteragonist, Hermione’s intelligence, skills, and unwavering loyalty make her an indispensable part of the trio.

          • Saul Goodman from the TV series Breaking Bad.

        While not as central to the story as Walter and Jesse, Saul plays a significant role in the plot, providing legal advice, facilitating criminal connections, and serving as a source of comic relief.

        5. Confidant

        A confidant character serves as a trusted ally to the protagonist, allowing them to share their innermost thoughts and emotions with the audience. This confidant often acts as a sounding board for the protagonist, providing support, advice, and insight into their psyche. This character helps the audience to better understand the main character’s journey and struggles. The volleyball becomes Chuck’s confidant in Castaway where he is stranded on an island with no other humans.

        Some examples of confidants are:

          • Joey Tribbiani is Chandler Bing’s confidant in the T.V. series Friends.

        Joey and Chandler are best friends and roommates, sharing a close bond that allows them to confide in each other about their personal lives, relationships, and insecurities.

          • Jane Bennet is Elizabeth Bennet’s confidant in Pride and Prejudice.

        As sisters, Jane and Elizabeth share a close, loving relationship that allows them to confide in each other about their feelings, hopes, and concerns.

          • Aled Last is the confidant of Frances Janvier in Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. 

        As confidants, Aled and Frances share their fears, doubts, and personal struggles with each other, finding solace and support in their friendship.

        6. Love interest

        The love interest character plays the romantic counterpart of the protagonist. Their connection often impacts the protagonist’s development and journey throughout the narrative, shaping their growth and decisions. Romeo and Juliet were each other’s love interests, and their love story was the basis of William Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet.

        Some examples of love interests are:

          • Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters play each other’s love interests in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

        Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers who meet at a cancer support group and develop a deep, meaningful connection.

          • Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton play each other’s love interests in The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

        Noah and Allie’s love story spans decades, beginning with a passionate summer romance in their teenage years and rekindling later in life.

          • Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff play each other’s love interests in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

        Catherine and Heathcliff’s love story is a tumultuous, passionate, and ultimately tragic tale that spans their lives from childhood to adulthood.

        7. Foil

        The foil character’s primary purpose is to highlight the traits of another character through contrast. In storytelling, a foil is a character that illuminates other characters. They’re used to define the relationship between a plot’s antagonist and protagonist. Draco Malfoy was a foil to Harry Potter: Rude, bigoted, arrogant, and generally horrible throughout most of the series, antithetical to what Harry is. 

        Some examples of foil characters are:

          • Hank Schrader is the foil to Walter White in the famous TV series Breaking Bad.

        Hank’s role as a DEA agent and his strong moral compass contrast sharply with Walter’s descent into the criminal world of drug manufacturing.

          • Nurse Ratched is the foil to Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

        Nurse Ratched’s cold, controlling demeanor and adherence to strict rules serve as a foil to McMurphy’s rebelliousness, free spirit, and desire for individual expression.

          • Javert is the foil to Jean Valjean in Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

        Javert’s strict adherence to the law and his relentless pursuit of justice serve as a foil to Jean Valjean’s compassion, redemption, and moral ambiguity.

        Types of characters in fiction

        1. Dynamic 

        Dynamic characters change throughout the story. All 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 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 the past, present, and future, he turns into a pleasant charitable man.

        Some examples of dynamic characters are:

          • Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

        Sydney initially appears as a lazy, alcoholic lawyer but ultimately finds redemption and purpose, sacrificing his life for the sake of others and demonstrating great courage and selflessness.

          • Jamal Malik in the film Slumdog Millionaire.

        Jamal’s experiences and struggles throughout his life shape him into a resilient, determined individual who overcomes adversity to find love and success.

          • Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. 

        Scout’s innocence and naivety are challenged as she witnesses prejudice and injustice in her community, leading to her growth in understanding and moral awareness.

        2. Static 

        These are characters who don’t change much through the course of the novel. They don’t have a lot of scope in the story and have a limited role. The author creates them with a single or specific purpose in the hero’s journey. Enemies and foils are mostly static, as they pose a challenge to the main character.  They serve as steady elements within the narrative. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice is a good example of a static character.

        Some examples of static characters are:

          • Mary Poppins in the Mary Poppins series by P.L. Travers.

        Mary Poppins is a magical, no-nonsense nanny who remains consistent in her behavior and attitudes throughout her various adventures with the Banks family.

          • Cinderella in the fairy tale Cinderella

        Cinderella’s kindness, resilience, and goodness remain unchanged throughout her story, even in the face of cruelty and adversity from her stepmother and stepsisters.

          • James Bond in the James Bond film series. 

        Despite the different actors who have portrayed him, James Bond remains a suave, confident, and skilled spy who consistently outsmarts his adversaries and maintains his signature style.

        One of the famous fictional characters, James Bond is standing in the dark night, alert.

        3. Round

        These are complex characters 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 have character arcs, unlike static and flat characters who get a one-dimensional playfield and are easily forgettable. Atticus Finch is a principled, compassionate, and morally upright character in To Kill a Mockingbird.

        Some examples of round characters are:

          • Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

        Gatsby is a mysterious, wealthy, and idealistic character whose pursuit of love and the American Dream ultimately leads to his downfall.

          • Daenerys Targaryen in A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.

        Daenerys is a complex character who evolves from a timid, exiled princess to a powerful, sometimes ruthless leader as she seeks to reclaim her birthright and rule the Seven Kingdoms.

          • Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

        Scarlett is a strong-willed, ambitious, and adaptable character who undergoes significant growth and change as she faces the challenges of the Civil War and Reconstruction era.

        4. Flat 

        These characters are simple and one-dimensional, often based on stereotypes. They do not undergo substantial change or growth. But they’re important nonetheless, they have some scope to create genuine conflict if used well. Thomas Buchanan is a flat character from The Great Gatsby who is Daisy’s immensely wealthy husband, once a member of Nick Carraway’s social club at Yale.

        Some examples of flat characters are:

          • Red Shirt characters in the Star Trek original series.

        “Red Shirt” characters in Star Trek are minor characters who often accompany the main cast on missions and are frequently killed off to demonstrate the danger of the situation.

          • Mrs. Micawber in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

        Mrs. Micawber is a kind but ineffectual character who constantly asserts that she will “never desert Mr. Micawber,” despite their financial struggles.

          • Crabbe and Goyle from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

        Draco Malfoy’s sidekicks, Crabbe and Goyle, are simple-minded, loyal followers who do not exhibit much depth or growth throughout the series.

        5. Stock

        A stock character is one that the audience can easily recognize due to its predictable traits. You know them through other books or other mediums such as movies, history, or mythology. You’ll mostly find them in satirical or historical books. They find a place in the books 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.

        Some examples of stock characters are:

          • The wise old mentor

        Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings

        Dumbledore in Harry Potter

        Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars

        These characters serve as guides, teachers, and sources of wisdom for the protagonist.

          • The mad scientist

        Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein

        Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown in Back to the Future

        Dr. Moreau in The Island of Dr. Moreau

        These brilliant but eccentric scientists often pursue knowledge or experiments that push the boundaries of ethics and reason.

          • The evil stepmother

        Lady Tremaine in Cinderella

        Queen Grimhilde in Snow White

        Mrs. Hannigan in Annie

        These cruel and often jealous maternal figures mistreat the protagonist and serve as a source of conflict.

        7 Archetypes of characters

        Character archetypes are familiar types of characters that appear in stories worldwide and are easily understood by people from different cultures. These characters represent fundamental human desires, fears, and relationships. Some popular character archetypes include:

        1. The hero

        Heroes are the epitome of courage and strength, embodying the qualities of bravery and resilience. They are driven by a strong sense of determination to accomplish their goals, even in the face of daunting challenges and adversity.

        Some examples of the hero are: 

          • Simba from The Lion King.
          • Wonder Woman/Diana Prince from DC Comics.
          • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

        2. The innocent

        This archetype is characterized by purity, optimism, and naivety, often seeking happiness. Dorothy Gale in L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz is a prime example, driven by her belief in a better world as she travels through Oz.

        Some examples of the innocent are:

          • Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story.
          • Paddington Bear in Paddington.
          • Pippi Longstocking in Pippi Longstocking.

        3. The everyman

        It is represented by the ordinary individual thrust into extraordinary circumstances, relying on common sense and inherent virtue. Bilbo Baggins from Tolkien’s The Hobbit is an ordinary hobbit who becomes a hero through his relatable and simple wisdom.

        Some examples of the everyman are:

          • Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
          • Marty McFly from Back to the Future.
          • Bridget Jones from the Bridget Jones’s Diary.

        4. The mentor

        They are known for wisdom, guidance, support, and advice to the hero on their journey. Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings exemplifies this role, guiding the Fellowship particularly Frodo, in their quest to destroy the One Ring.

        Some examples of the mentor are:

          • Yoda from Star Wars.
          • Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid.
          • Morpheus from The Matrix.

        5. The villain

        The Villain opposes the hero, embodying vices and complex personality traits that often include a tragic backstory. A classic example of the villain archetype is Voldemort from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Voldemort, also known as Tom Riddle, is a dark wizard whose quest for power and immortality leads him to commit heinous acts.

        Some examples of the villain are:

          • Lex Luthor from Superman.
          • The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia.
          • Agent Smith from The Matrix trilogy.

        6. The outlaw

        The outlaw is a rebel who rejects societal norms and laws to bring about change. Tyler Durden in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club challenges societal norms with his radical philosophy and actions, embodying the outlaw archetype.

        Some examples of the outlaw are:

          • Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.
          • V in V for Vendetta.
          • Robin Hood from the famous folklore.

        7. The caregiver

        This character is nurturing and selfless, often putting the needs of others first. Samwise Gamgee in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a devoted companion to Frodo, whose caregiving and support are crucial to the quest’s success.

        Some examples of the caregiver are:

          • Margaret March from Little Women.
          • Nanny McPhee from Nanny McPhee.
          • Rafiki from The Lion King.

        Understanding the types of characters in literature, stories, and fiction enriches your engagement with texts and your own writing. Knowing how to craft and identify these different character types can transform a simple narrative into a compelling tale.

        Whether you are crafting complex protagonists or intriguing villains, a well-edited story stands out in the minds of its readers. If you’re working on your own masterpiece, consider using PaperTrue’s expert editing and proofreading services to refine your characters and polish your narrative!

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        Tanvi Linkedin

        With a foundation in Life Sciences, Tanvi enjoys curating technical writing tips tailored for ESL students. When she's not translating complex concepts into bite-sized nuggets, she can be found playing with dogs or painting landscapes.

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