If you were a character, what would your personality, actions, and interactions be like? Your character would certainly have depth, and behave and speak in a realistic way, because that’s who you are in real life.
Complex characters are the most developed characters in a story and are meant to seem like real people. Analyzing how complex characters develop, interact, and advance the plot of a story is an important reading skill for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Reading subtest.
Characteristics of Complex Characters
- Undergo an important change as the plot unfolds because of his or her actions or experiences in the story.
- Help advance the plot.
- Have a variety of personality traits.
- Display strengths, weaknesses, and a full range of emotions.
- Have meaningful interactions with other characters.
Complex Character Development
In every story, characters are driven by a specific motivation. Why characters act the way they do comes from their desire to:
- Reach a goal
- Achieve fame
- Become rich
- Fall in love
- Help people
- Deceive people
Motivation is the first level in a characters development. The choices a character makes for or against his motivation furthers his development, and the progress of the plot. Supporting characters also have an effect on complex characters by causing conflict and change.
Example of a Complex Character
Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, is an example of a complex character. Scrooge is mean and hostile in the beginning of the story, but undergoes significant change as the plot unfolds. He starts to display compassion and understanding toward other characters.
As a boy, Scrooge was abandoned by his father at a boarding school, even during Christmas. This planted the first seed for his hatred toward the holiday. As his character develops, he becomes obsessed with work and money, leaving his fiancé with no choice but to leave him. This sends Scrooge over the edge and turns him into the cruel character he’s known to be.
As the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future visit him, he displays a change of heart toward his life and the other characters. He becomes warm and inviting, advancing the moral of the story to be thankful for what you have.
What other complex characters have you read about lately? Try to distinguish which characters are complex and which are supporting in the materials you read to prepare for the TASC test.