Round and Flat Characters | Reading
In his book Aspects of the Novel, British novelist E. M. Forster first used the terms round and flat to describe characters. According to Forster, round characters have “the incalculability of life” about them. Round characters are complex, like actual human beings, and can surprise readers. The teachers at Education Portal note of round characters, “When you think you’ve figured them out, they can do something that catches the reader off guard.” Main characters are typically round characters. As Brandi Reissenweber, a writing expert at the Gotham Writers Workshop, states in her recommendations to writers, round characters demonstrate dimensionality because there are multiple facets of the character’s personality. In other words, a round character is multidimensional. Round characters are sometimes called dynamic, meaning they undergo change (most often progress) and are complex. In a story, play, or novel, a round character demonstrates this change in a variety of ways. Dynamic characters experience this change as a result of action in the plot, and this change is significant enough to make a permanent change within the character beyond his or her mood. In contrast, flat characters are not complex or dynamic. They do not change, and may be referred to as static. Often, they are not even interesting to readers. You can recognize a flat character because he or she can be described in a sentence or two, and is often aligned with a type or cliché. As the teachers note, “They’re no problem to figure out, which is probably why many blockbuster action flicks are stacked with flat characters.” Flat characters never surprise the reader. Brushing up on these types of characters can help you prepare for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Reading subtest. Round and flat characters are a medium emphasis topic, and you may be asked questions about characters from reading passages. Knowing what types of characters they are, and the significance of their actions, decisions, or transformations, can help inform your answers. The trick to remembering these types of characters is easy: the more human characters feel, the rounder they are.