Types of Characters

Types of Characters

Teaching middle and high school language arts taught me a lot about characters in fiction. I learned as much teaching as I did when I was in high school myself–and as an English major in college.

Understanding the different types of characters and the roles they play in a story allows you to create a cast that supports the protagonist and enhances your story. 

The Major Characters: These folks are the key players. Without them, the story doesn’t exist. They are:

  • The Protagonist: This is the hero of the story. They will be your main point of view character. The protagonist is on a journey (a hero’s journey) and has an arc, which is completed by the end of the story.
  • The Antagonist: This is the villain of the story. He or she is often seen as a shadow character of the hero’s. The antagonist presents conflicts for the hero.

The Minor Characters: These people support the protagonist, or conversely, they present further obstacles for the hero. They could be the mentor, allies or enemies, the trickster, the sidekick, or anyone else who has a less important role than the major players, but who is still integral to the story. They have names and without them, there is a gap in the story.

The Dynamic Characters: These are both major and minor characters who experience growth in the story. They may learn a lesson or deal with some internal conflict they’ve been carrying around. The key element of a dynamic character is that they undergo change from who they are at the beginning in some form or fashion. They have an arc of some sort.

The Static Characters: On the scale of importance, these folks fall below the minor characters.They simply exist int he story for background and flavor, but they don’t play an important part and don’t have a character arc. They gererally don’t change.

The Stereotypes: These people are archetypes we all recognize. They are part of our collective unconscious. They are clichés. Within a story, they serve as flavor, but they shouldn’t do more than that because we want our significant characters to be much more than stereotypes. 

As you create your characters, consider which category they fall into. Your protagonist doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so creating a well-rounded cast makes your hero’s world so much more interesting. Have fun!

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