This is part 1 in a series called The Epic Guide to Character Creation. In this part I will show you how to categorize your characters. Characters are one of the essential pillars of a story. Every writer should know that. Take that pillar away and the story will fall apart.
The truth is that in every sensational story is an extraordinary character (or, even better, more than one). Extraordinary characters do much more than just advance the plot. Extraordinary characters jump off of the page and grip the heart of the reader. You want that just as much as any other writer, right?
To write characters that grip the heart of the reader you, as the writer, need to think of your characters as living and breathing people. Added to that, you need to know them as intimately as you can.
There are a few ways that you can understand characters — and character creation — better. Categorizing your characters will help you gain a clearer picture of who your characters are and how they should be portrayed. Let’s begin:
Dynamic or Static, Round or Flat Characters?
All characters experience a varying amount of change over the course of a story.
Dynamic characters experience some kind of emotional or mental change throughout a story. This means that a dynamic character becomes a different person because of the journey that he/she experiences. This change is often positive, but it doesn’t have to be.
Static characters do not experience any emotional or mental changes throughout a story. They are the same person at the end of the story as they were in the beginning.
Round characters are those characters who are most like real people because of their depth — their complex personalities — and fully-defined background stories. Round characters have many layers.
Flat characters can often be described in a single sentence. They have no depth, they are not fully fleshed out, and they most often typify one single trait.
All stories have a varying range of these types of characters. Some characters may be very dynamic while others are static, and some may be round while others are flat.
The most important characters of a story (protagonists and antagonists) are usually the ones that are round and dynamic while minor character often are static and round or static and flat (depending on their importance to the story).
Black, White or Grey Characters?
Black and white categorized characters are distinguished by their fundamental sense of evil or good. Black is evil, white is good.
Grey is the area in between good and evil, and the actions and motivations of grey characters fall in between these two contrasting sides.
Characters that fall into the black category are the purely evil kind. They have no hesitations about doing whatever it takes to attain their goal. A purely evil character will justify, for example, lies, deception, and murder as necessary to get what they want. If something or someone stand in their way, they will usually remove it/him/her with any means.
Characters that fall into the white category are the purely noble kind. These characters believe in doing the right thing and they often make the fight against the evil forces their personal mission. This type of character will not cross the line into the dark side, and usually only kills when given no other option (to save his/her own life, to save his/her family, to avoid the beginning of another world war, etc.)
Black and white categorized characters often receive critique in modern literature because they are unrealistic and sometimes even stereotypical. That’s one of the reasons why grey characters have become increasingly popular.
Characters that fall into the grey category are, as mentioned, in between good and evil. Some grey characters are good but make questionable decisions because of a character flaw. Many modern main characters take on this role.
Other grey characters are bad people who have a sympathetic background that almost justify their actions. This is a role that many modern antagonists take.
Some grey characters can even be purely grey — meaning that their actions either walk the fine line between good and evil or that they do little of each.
If the protagonist of a story is a grey character, they are often called antiheroes.
Personally I think that George R. R. Martin, in his A Song of Ice and Fire-series, is a master of grey characters. So, if you’re interested in these types of characters I would recommend that you read his series.
Next week I’ll post about heroine archetypes. If you’re interested, make sure to come back here next Tuesday. Until then, have a great week.