A Classification of Character Types in Literature

Do you know how many characters types are there in literature? If you love to read literature, especially fiction stories and novels of if you are an aspiring fiction writer, you would be knowing about some basic character types, i.e. a hero (protagonist), opposite to a hero (antagonist), a changing character (dynamic) and a non-changing character (static or flat).

But these are not all types you should be knowing. There are more types than these basic ones and they have their unique characteristics. Apart from the basic types, there are confidante character, foil character, round character, stock character, and a Villain. There are also some archetypal characters.

Having an in-depth knowledge of the types mentioned above is crucial to writing an interesting fiction story. To help you with this, we have discussed all these characters in detail. Keep reading.

Types of characters in literature

There are 9 types of characters in the literature and all of them are important. Regardless of the intensity or the length of their role, they have a place in the story. They help the flow of a story go logically and smoothly towards the end.

The main character (Protagonist)

Every story has this type of character and evolves around it. It is the main character or the hero and is also called the protagonist. It appears in the story from the start to end. It is the one who fights with the situations and antagonist characters (we will be discussing this type next) and takes the story to the happy (or unhappy) ending.

A hero is at the center of the story and keeps the readers interested by showing his heroism and courage to stand by the truth and fighting against the evil and antagonist character. The protagonist often raises from nothing or comes out as a strong person after being a victim of a destructive event. Note that a fiction story doesn’t necessarily have to focus only on one hero character. Many stories have more than one protagonist or hero who help each other and plays equal roles until the end.

A good example of this type of character is Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, which shows the heroic characteristics of a boy who faces the evils and threats against his life and still strongly maintains the good virtues and saves others’ lives in difficult situations.

Character opposing the main character (Antagonist)

In a fiction, when there is a protagonist or a main character who plays a role of a hero who takes the stand for the good and truth, the antagonist plays against this heroic character and tries to stop him by posing threats to his and others’ lives. Note that an antagonist doesn’t always need to be a person or a group of people working to ensure the misery of the protagonist. It can also be a difficult situation or accidental event that works against the main and positive character.

This type of character is the life of a plot along with the main character and keeps readers interested by posing the questions and making them curious about what will happen next. We can also say that an antagonist, i.e. a negative person or a situation is essential for the rise of a hero. Thus, this type of character is very important while you are writing a fiction.

A great example of such a character is Lord Voldemort, the main antagonist character in the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling, who killed Harry Potter’s parents. He also tries to kill Harry Potter in all parts of the series.

Static or flat character

Flat characters are not an eye-catching part of the story, but still play an important role in the flow and help the main character in his or her intention. This character doesn’t have strong characteristics or doesn’t reveal much about the self. It also stays static throughout the story and feels the gap in the storyline.

Such characters often have a very short role in the story, but sometimes the writer can make such character very interesting and memorable by giving it a special style and manner.

One of the static character examples is Mr. Filch in the Harry Potter Series. He is a caretaker of the Hogwarts school of magic. He is a flat character because of his role of finding the students who break the rules of the school.

Changing or dynamic character

Opposite to the flat character, a dynamic character plays a role that develops and changes during the events in the story. This character may change positively or negatively depending on the need of the story. It can be anything from a supporter of the main character to a partner of the antagonist and may change its direction from positive to negative or negative to positive.

This type of character often rises from a normal non-important person to an important one and makes a significant effect on the story.

Neville Longbottom is the best example of a dynamic character who converts himself from a simple student of the school to a leader of the students and leads the students in a fight against the evil character Lord Voldemort.

Confidante character

A protagonist character’s virtues often get highlighted the help of a confidante character. This type of character in whom the main character can trust on and it ultimately helps develop his heroic characteristics. A story often must have this character in order to support the development of the main character.

This character doesn’t need to be a person and can be an animal like a pat or any other object. There are some characters like Hermione, Remus Lupin, Hagrid, Ron, Albus Dumbledore and others who played a confidante role Harry Potter series and helped to bring the strong characteristics of Harry Potter as a hero.

Foil character

This type of character plays a nasty and contrasting role that brings out the good qualities and highlights the caring nature of the other characters like a hero or the main character and other dynamic characters. It often plays a counterpart of the hero character and serves to add a dramatic effect to the story.

An antagonist’s characteristics are opposite to those of the protagonist, but a foil character works in contrast while comparing the personality of a hero with this character. It also helps a protagonist see the problems in a different way by bringing out another side of him. A reader will find this character helpful in understanding the main character.

An example of this type is Draco Malfoy who highlights and even helps make the good qualities and other virtues of Harry Potter stronger by being coward and nasty.

Stock character

Unlike other characters, the characters of this type are of no much value in a story. They are usually stereotypical and are conventionally used repeatedly in the stories of a particular type. They are like any guy found in the stories who just take the space but doesn’t have any impact on the plot. They just come and go and are generally not recognized by the readers.

This type of characters sometimes fits in the flat character definition that comes in during any stereotypical situations as part of the society in the plot. They don’t develop and can’t get a special attention in the story, yet they can be easily identified. They are just the part of the culture like, for example, an unreliable servant in the Italian comedy that just makes fun and comments on something.

We can identify Professor McGonagall as an example of a stock character who is a teacher and seeks the students to follow the rules strictly. Her appearance is like that of a typical teacher with a conventional style of talking and has stereotypical manners.

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Round character

This is the character which contributes the most in making the story interesting and keeps the reader confused about the person’s actual nature. Harry Potter himself in the Harry Potter series will help you know what is a round character. This type of character acts subtly and changes in the face of a conflict. This character develops itself and rather becomes complex as the story progresses as he or she doesn’t stick to the limited qualities.

This way, the character makes it difficult for the readers to fully understand and identify how the person will act in the story until the end of the story. You can call this character a main or major character or also a dynamic character due to the changes and development in the personality.

Another characteristic of the person with this type of character is that he or she seems more realistic by becoming inconsistent in his or her role throughout the story. It is even expected by the readers as they see realistic characters like those around in the real world more connecting with normal human-like characteristics.

Some of the great examples of the characters of this type are Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley in the Harry Potter series. They fit perfectly in this type as per the round character literary definition. We can also consider the other two as round characters in the same series. They are Ginny Weasley and Severus Snape.

Evil character or villain

An evil character can have similar characteristics to those of an antagonist, but he or she acts actively with more intensity to harm the protagonist or the main character and others. This character does everything to create life-threatening situations for the hero in the story. Note that an evil-minded character doesn’t always work against the hero but often creates a harmful situation for the society, country or even for the world.

This type of character can be considered as a major character along with the main character as it takes the major portion of the story and drives the plot. An intense evil or villain character makes a hero or the main character more important and ideal that makes the story stronger and more interesting.

The main villain in the Harry Potter series, i.e. Lord Voldemort is an excellent example of this type of character. He acts as a powerful enemy and creates grave situations for the main and other characters throughout the series.

Archetypal characters

Archetype characters have the original characters based on which other characters develop within the story. This word has its origin in the word “archein” in the ancient Greek literature and it means “original”. So the meaning of archetype means original type or model or pattern. These are the types which help create different characters with sub-types and different combinations of characteristics.

Carl Gustav Jung, a psychologist, has prepared a character archetypes list of 12 basic types responsible for the human motivation for all type of activities. They are further divided into three sets and each set contains four types of character in the archetypal category. They are;

The Ego

The hero: We have already discussed this type of character. He or she is the main character in the story who courageously fights against the difficulties and villains to prove his or her worth.

The innocent: This type of person tries to be happy by being non-harmful to others and expecting the same from them. He or she tries to connect with everybody but fears to be left out. This character generally has ordinary but solid virtues that keep him or her down to earth and gives a common and familiar touch.

The regular guy: This character is somewhat similar to the innocent and tries to be connected with others. This person also fears to be left out and disconnected. This makes him or her trying to keep superficial relationships.

The caregiver: As the term suggests, this type of character is caring and helps others. While compassion and generosity are their strengths, the martyrdom and selflessness are their weaknesses.

The soul

The rebel: This type of characters lives their life according to their own rules and fight to change the world. They are radical and outrageous and bring revolution to overturn the system that is not working.

The creator: These characters are imaginative and believe in creativity. They contribute to the world and make other people’s life easier by developing useful things with their talent and skills.

The lover: This character loves to be in the relationship and love the people, situations and work around him or her. They can be a good friend, spouse or a team member.

The explorer: This character always seeks to go beyond the limits and explore the unexplored area of nature, life, and the world. Sometimes they end up being aimless and wandering around without any gain.

The self

The magician: This type of character aims to understand the fundamental universal laws and tries to convert dreams into reality. They often work for the solutions to create a win-win situation.

The ruler: This type of character holds the control over everything around him or her and tries to make the family, community or the society according to his or her set of rules.

The jester: This type of character believes in enjoying life to the fullest as according to him or her, the life is short and the only chance to make the surroundings happy and joyful. They usually do so by being funny and making jokes and playing around the situation without taking it seriously and fit in the static character definition.

The sage: This type of character looks for the ways to find the truth and attain the ultimate place. The knowledge and intelligence they possess enable them to see the world analytically to know the truth to be free.

We have described the characters in as much detail as possible in this article. Hope it will be helpful to you in understanding and crafting the characters of a fiction story.