What Is a Character? Definition & 180+ Examples

Have you ever wondered why characters in literature seem so rich and multi-layered? It’s the intricate background information that breathes life into them, forming the backbone of their identity.

As readers, we’re drawn into their worlds, connecting with their experiences, and empathizing with their struggles. Character backgrounds not only add depth to these fictional beings but also help to shape the story itself, revealing underlying motivations and driving the plot forward.

So, let’s dive into the art of crafting unforgettable character backgrounds and explore how they can transform the literary experience.

Defining Character in Literature

Character in literature refers to the individuals who populate a story, bringing it to life through their actions, thoughts, dialogue, and relationships. Characters are the central elements of a narrative, and their development, personalities, and experiences contribute to the themes and messages the author aims to convey. Characters in literature can be categorized into:


The protagonist serves as the focal point of the story and is typically the character with whom the audience most closely identifies. They often face numerous challenges and obstacles throughout the narrative, and their experiences can teach valuable lessons or provide insights into the human condition. Here are several examples of protagonists across different forms of media:


  • Amir from “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini (2003)
  • Offred from “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood (1985)
  • Huckleberry Finn from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain (1884)
  • Harry Potter from the “Harry Potter series” by J.K. Rowling (1997-2007)
  • Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins (2008-2010; 2020)


  • Luke Skywalker from the “Star Wars” franchise (1977)
  • Ellen Ripley from the “Alien” franchise (1979-2017)
  • Andy Dufresne from “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)
  • Simba from “The Lion King” (1994)
  • Indiana Jones from the “Indiana Jones” series (1981-2023)


  • Tyrion Lannister from “Game of Thrones” (2011-2019)
  • Piper Chapman from “Orange Is the New Black” (2013-2019)
  • Ted Mosby from “How I Met Your Mother” (2005-2014)
  • Eleven from “Stranger Things” (2016-2022)
  • Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015)


An antagonist is a character in a literary work who opposes or creates conflict for the protagonist, the main character of the story. The antagonist often serves as an obstacle that the protagonist must overcome in order to achieve their goals or resolve the central conflict.

Antagonists can take many forms and may not necessarily be evil or malicious; they can simply have opposing goals or perspectives that create tension and drive the narrative.

There are several types of antagonists:

Human Antagonist

Human antagonists play a crucial role in storytelling by creating conflict and tension, which drive the narrative forward and challenge the protagonist. These characters often have complex motivations and may even possess redeeming qualities, making them multidimensional and compelling. Here are several examples of human antagonists across different forms of media:


  • Iago from “Othello” by William Shakespeare (1604)
  • Lord Voldemort from the “Harry Potter series” by J.K. Rowling (1997 – 2007)
  • Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey
  • Count Dracula from “Dracula” by Bram Stoker (1962)
  • Tom Buchanan from “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)


  • Hans Gruber from “Die Hard” (1988)
  • Regina George from “Mean Girls” (2004)
  • Emperor Commodus from “Gladiator” (2000)
  • Darth Vader from the “Star Wars” series (1977 – present)
  • The Joker from “The Dark Knight” (2008)


  • Kilgrave from “Jessica Jones” (2015-2019)
  • Avon Randolph Barksdale from “The Wire” (2002-2008)
  • The Trinity Killer from “Dexter” (2006-2013)
  • Negan Smith from “The Walking Dead” (2010-2022)
  • Wilson Fisk from “Daredevil” (2015-2018)

Non-human Antagonist

Non-human antagonists add variety and intrigue to storytelling, often representing external forces or abstract concepts that challenge the protagonist. These antagonists can embody primal fears, symbolize societal issues, or explore the limits of human understanding. Here are several examples of non-human antagonists across different forms of media:


  • The White Whale from “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville (1851)
  • The Monster from “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley (1818)
  • The Martians from “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells (1898)
  • The Shark from “Jaws” by Peter Benchley (1974)
  • The Shrike from “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons (1989)


  • The Xenomorph from the “Alien” franchise (1979-2017)
  • HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)
  • The Terminator from “The Terminator” (1984)
  • The Cloverfield Monster from “Cloverfield” (2008)
  • Behemecoatyl from “Starship Troopers” (1997)
  • Randall Boggs from “Monsters Inc.” (2001)


  • Vecna from “Stranger Things” (2016-2022)
  • The First Evil from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)
  • Esplin 9466 from “Animorphs” (1998-1999)
  • Apophis from “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007)
  • The Shadow King from “Legion” (2017-2019)

Nature or Environment

Environmental antagonists often serve as the primary source of conflict in stories that focus on survival, exploration, or the struggle against overwhelming odds. These stories emphasize the power of nature and the human capacity for resilience and adaptation in the face of adversity. Here are several examples of environmental antagonists across different forms of media:


  • The Force of Ocean and Unpredictable Weather in “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
  • Extreme Cold and Unforgiving Wilderness in “To Build a Fire” by Jack London (1902)
  • Merciless Ocean in “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel (2001)
  • Canadian Wilderness in “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen (1986)
  • Alaskan Wilderness in “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer (1996)


  • Harsh Wildnerness, Unforgiving Weather, and Wildlife in “The Revenant” (2015)
  • Hostile Environment of the Alaskan Wilderness in “The Grey” (2011)
  • New Environment of a Deserted Island in “Cast Away” (2000)
  • Environment of a Remote Canyon in “127 Hours” (2010)
  • Catastrophic Effects of Climate Change in “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004)


  • The Island in “Lost” (2004-2010)
  • The Arctic in “The Terror” (2018-2019)
  • The Wilderness in “Man vs. Wild” (2006-2020)
  • The Ocean in “Deadliest Catch” (2005-present)
  • The Volcano in “Volcano: Fire on the Mountain” (1997)

Video Games:

  • Environmental Challenges and Global Disaster in “The Long Dark” (2017)
  • Hostile Aquatic Life and Environmental Hazards in “Subnautica” (2018)
  • Extreme Weather, Hunger, and Thirst in “ARK: Survival Evolved” (2015)
  • The Frozen World in “Frostpunk” (2018)
  • The Procedurally-Generated World in “Don’t Starve” (2013)

Society or System

Societal or systemic antagonists provide a backdrop for stories that explore themes of injustice, power dynamics, and the struggle for freedom and equality.

These narratives often delve into the complexities of human nature and societal organization, highlighting the resilience and determination of individuals in the face of adversity. Here are several examples of societal or systemic antagonists across different forms of media:


  • The Party in “1984” by George Orwell (1949)
  • The Capitol in “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins (2008-2010; 2020)
  • The Caste System in “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy (1997)
  • The World State from “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxle (1932)
  • The Chaturbate Society in “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953)


  • The Social Norms in “Pleasantville” (1998)
  • The Government in “V for Vendetta” (2005)
  • The Pre-Crime System in “Minority Report” (2002)
  • The Judicial System in “12 Angry Men” (1957)
  • The Economic System in “Wall Street” (1987)

Internal Conflict

Stories with internal antagonists delve into the complexities of human psychology, exploring themes of personal growth, self-discovery, and the battle between light and dark aspects of human nature. These narratives often focus on the protagonist’s internal conflict and the struggle for self-mastery. Here are several examples of internal antagonists across different forms of media:


  • Hamlet’s indecision and procrastination from “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare (1603)
  • Macbeth’s ambition and guilt from “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare (1623)
  • Dorian Gray’s hedonism and moral corruption from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde (1890)
  • Arthur Dimmesdale’s guilt and hypocrisy from “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
  • David Lurie’s pride and redemption from “Disgrace” by J.M. Coetzee (1999)


  • Nina Sayers’ perfectionism and loss of identity from “Black Swan” (2010)
  • Andrew Neiman’s ambition and self-destructive behavior from “Whiplash” (2014)
  • Amy Dunne’s manipulation and control from “Gone Girl” (2014)
  • Daniel Plainview’s greed and isolation from “There Will Be Blood” (2007)
  • Léon Montana’s professional detachment vs. emotional attachment from “Léon: The Professional” (1994)


  • BoJack Horseman’s self-destructiveness “BoJack Horseman” (2014-2020)
  • Selina Meyer’s ambition and incompetence from “Veep” (2012-2019)
  • Saul Goodman’s ethics and ambition from “Better Call Saul” (2015-2022)
  • Villanelle’s sociopathy and emotional connection from “Killing Eve” (2018-2022)
  • Raymond “Red” Reddington’s criminal empire and redemption from “The Blacklist” (2013-2023)


A deuteragonist is the second most important character in a literary work, often serving as a supporting character to the protagonist, who is the main character. The term “deuteragonist” comes from the Greek words “deuteros” (second) and “agonistes” (actor or competitor).

The role of the deuteragonist can vary significantly depending on the story, but generally, they provide support, insight, or a contrasting perspective to the protagonist. Here are several examples of deuteragonists across different forms of media:


  • Samwise Gamgee from “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
  • Dr. John Watson from “Sherlock Holmes” stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887-1915)
  • Jay Gatsby from “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  • Lennie Small from “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck (1937)
  • Marius Pontmercy from “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo (1862)


  • Hermione Granger and Ron Weasly from the “Harry Potter” series (2001-2011)
  • Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story” series (1995-2019)
  • Nakia from “Black Panther” (2018)
  • Russell from “Up” (2019)
  • Timon and Pumbaa from “The Lion King” (1994)


  • Jesse Bruce Pinkman from “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013)
  • Claire Hale-Underwood from “House of Cards” (2013-2018)
  • Chloe Decker from “Lucifer” (2016-2021)
  • Omar Little in “The Wire” (2002-2008)
  • Angel from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)

Tertiary Characters

Tertiary characters often serve to highlight various aspects of the main characters’ personalities, advance subplots, or provide comic relief, drama, or atmosphere to the story. Their presence can add a sense of realism and complexity to the narrative, as they represent diverse perspectives and experiences. Here are several examples of tertiary characters across different forms of media:


  • Bob and Nob from “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen (1813)
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare (1603)
  • Bob Cratchit from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens (1843)
  • Miss Maudie Atkinson from “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (1960)


  • Wedge Antilles from the “Star Wars” series (1977 – present)
  • Karen from “Mean Girls” (2004)
  • Jack’s crew from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series (2003-present)
  • Mr. Ollivander from the “Harry Potter” series (2001-2011)
  • Agent Smith from “The Matrix” series (1991-2021)


  • Gunther from “Friends” (1994-2004)
  • The Night’s Watch from “Game of Thrones” (2011-2019)
  • Creed Bratton from “The Office” (2005-2013)
  • Jerry Gergich from “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015)
  • River Song from “Doctor Who” (2005-present)

Love Interest

A love interest is a character in a literary work who serves as the romantic partner or object of affection for another character, typically the protagonist.

The presence of a love interest often adds emotional depth, complexity, and tension to the story, as well as providing a romantic subplot that runs parallel to the main narrative. Here are several examples of love interests across different forms of media:


  • Mr. Darcy from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen (1813)
  • Daisy Buchanan from “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  • Hester Prynne from “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
  • Guinevere from Arthurian legend
  • Catherine Earnshaw from “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë (1847)
  • George Knightley in “Emma” by Jane Austen (1815)
  • Juliet Capulet from “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare (1597)
  • Laura in “Petrarch’s Sonnets” by Petrarch (1327-1374)
  • Cosette in “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo (1862)


  • Rose DeWitt Bukater from “Titanic” (1997)
  • Allie Hamilton from “The Notebook” (2004)
  • Mary Jane Watson from the “Spider-Man” series (2002-2007)
  • Clementine Kruczynski from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)
  • Amelia “Mia” Dolan from “La La Land” (2016)
  • Naomi Lapaglia from “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)
  • Andie Anderson from “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” (2003)


  • Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” (2011-2019)
  • Derek Shepherd from “Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-present)
  • Betty Cooper in “Riverdale” (2017-2023)
  • Damon Salvatore from “The Vampire Diaries” (2009-2017)
  • Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015)

Video Games:

  • Triss Merigold and Yennefer of Vengerberg from “The Witcher” series (2007-present)
  • Mitsuru Kirijo from “Persona 3” (2006)
  • Yukiko Amagi in “Persona 4” (2008)
  • Ann Takamaki in “Persona 5” (2016)
  • Judy Alvarez in “Cyberpunk 2077” (2020)

Foil Character

A foil character is a character in a literary work who serves as a contrast to another character, typically the protagonist or a central figure, in order to highlight particular qualities or traits of the primary character.

By emphasizing the differences between the two characters, the foil character helps readers to better understand and appreciate the nuances of the main character’s personality, motivations, or values.


  • Heathcliff and Edgar Linton from “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë (1847)
  • Fortinbras and Laertes from “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare (1603)
  • Ralph and Jack from “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding (1954)
  • Biff and Happy Loman from “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller (1949)
  • Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing from “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde (1895)


  • Woody and Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story” (1995-2019)
  • Elsa and Anna from “Frozen” (2013) and “Frozen 2” (2019)
  • Captain America and Iron Man from “Marvel Cinematic Universe”
  • Danny Archer and Solomon Vandy from “Blood Diamond” (2006)
  • Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter from “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)


  • Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter from “The Big Bang Theory” (2007-2019)
  • Jack Shephard and John Locke from “Lost” (2004-2010)
  • Don Draper and Pete Campbell from “Mad Men” (2007-2015)
  • Carrie Mathison and Saul Berenson from “Homeland” (2011-2020)
  • Lorelai Gilmore and Emily Gilmore from “Gilmore Girls” (2000-2007)

Types of Characters

In literature, characters play a crucial role in storytelling. There are various types of characters, each with their own unique characteristics and impact on the plot.

Dynamic Characters

Dynamic characters are characters in a literary work who undergo significant change or growth throughout the course of the story. These changes can be related to their personality, beliefs, values, relationships, or circumstances.

Dynamic characters are essential for creating engaging narratives, as they evolve in response to the events, conflicts, and experiences they encounter, which in turn contributes to the development of the plot and themes of the story.

Examples of dynamic characters include:

  • Ebenezer Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens (1843)
  • Simba from “The Lion King” (1994)
  • Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins (2008-2010; 2020)
  • Ender Wiggin from “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card (2013)
  • Travis Bickle from “Taxi Driver” (1976)
  • Celie from “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker (1982)

Static Characters

Static characters are characters in a literary work who do not undergo significant change or growth throughout the course of the story. Their personality, beliefs, values, relationships, or circumstances remain mostly constant, providing a sense of stability and continuity within the narrative.

While static characters may not experience a character arc like dynamic characters, they still play important roles in the development of the plot, themes, and other characters in the story.

Examples of static characters include:

  • Cinderella’s Stepmother from various “Cinderella” adaptations
  • Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada” by Lauren Weisberger (2003)
  • Baloo from “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling (1894)
  • Gaston from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)
  • Inspector Javert from “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo (1862)

Round Characters

Round characters, also known as three-dimensional characters, are characters in a literary work who possess complex, well-developed personalities and display a wide range of emotions, motivations, and traits.

These characters feel realistic and relatable, as they exhibit depth and nuance in their thoughts, feelings, and actions, much like real people. Round characters often evolve throughout the story, adapting and changing in response to the events and conflicts they encounter.

Protagonists are typically round characters, but not all round characters are protagonists.

Examples of round characters include:

  • Michael Corleone from “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo (1969)
  • Don Quixote from “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes (1606; 1615)
  • Humbert Humbert from “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
  • Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams (1947)
  • Peggy Olson from the TV series “Mad Men” (2007-2015)
  • Marjane Satrapi from “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi (2000)

Flat Characters

Flat characters, also known as two-dimensional characters, are characters in a literary work who are relatively simple, lacking depth and complexity in their personalities, emotions, and motivations.

These characters often possess a limited range of traits or qualities and do not undergo significant growth or change throughout the story. Despite their simplicity, flat characters still play important roles in the narrative, serving specific functions or purposes within the plot.

Examples of flat characters include:

  • Karen Smith from the film “Mean Girls” (2004)
  • Mr. Smee from “Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie (1904)
  • Red from “That ’70s Show” (1998-2006)
  • Minny Jackson from “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett (2009)
  • Eeyore from “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne (1926)

Character Development and Aspects

Characters play a central role in engaging readers and driving the plot in any narrative. Developing complex, lifelike characters adds depth to a story and helps readers build connections with them.


Characters’ backgrounds impact the way they perceive the world and interact with their environment. Their origins, upbringing, culture, and relationships all contribute to the formation of a unique identity.

A well-developed background provides a strong foundation for a character’s motivations and goals. For example, in David Copperfield, the character Mrs. Micawber has a detailed background that informs her actions throughout the story.


Understanding a character’s motivations is essential to development, as these driving forces can explain their actions, reactions, and decisions. Motivations can stem from a variety of sources, such as personal beliefs, past experiences, or external pressures. They often change in response to the events of the story, contributing to a character’s growth and development.


Desires are related to motivations, but they are more focused on what a character wants or hopes to achieve. This can be as simple as a basic need, like shelter or sustenance, or something more complex, like love or success. Desires can also change and evolve throughout a narrative, providing a compelling arc for character development.

Personality Traits

Characters’ personalities can be broken down into various traits, which combine to form unique individuals who respond to situations in different ways. Some common categories of traits include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. By including a diverse range of traits, authors create richer, more realistic characters.

For example, consider the following traits of a character from a small town:

  • Openness: Curious and eager to explore new experiences.
  • Conscientiousness: Responsible and organized, but sometimes overbearing.
  • Extraversion: Outgoing and sociable, thrives in group settings.
  • Agreeableness: Kind-hearted and empathetic, but can be overly trusting.
  • Neuroticism: Prone to anxiety and stress, but uses it as a driving force for success.

Incorporating these traits into character development creates an engaging, lifelike figure that readers can connect with and understand.


In literature, relationships play a crucial role in shaping characters and driving the narrative. The connections between characters provide depth and dimension to their personalities, reveal their motivations, and contribute to the overall themes of the story.

Relationships in literature can take many forms, including family ties, friendships, romantic partnerships, professional connections, and adversarial encounters. Each type of relationship offers unique opportunities for character development and plot progression.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths and weaknesses are integral aspects of character development in literature. These traits help create multi-dimensional, relatable, and engaging characters that contribute to a compelling narrative.

The exploration of a character’s strengths and weaknesses can reveal their inner struggles, motivations, and vulnerabilities, making them more complex and human.

Internal and External Conflicts

Strengths and weaknesses are integral aspects of character development in literature. These traits help create multi-dimensional, relatable, and engaging characters that contribute to a compelling narrative.

The exploration of a character’s strengths and weaknesses can reveal their inner struggles, motivations, and vulnerabilities, making them more complex and human.

Physical Appearance

Physical appearance is an important aspect of character development in literature, as it can contribute to a character’s identity, personality, and the way they are perceived by others.

Describing a character’s physical traits can help readers visualize the character, provide insight into their background or social status, and establish their presence within the story.

Character Portrayal in Different Genres

In literature, character portrayal varies significantly across different genres, each with its unique characteristics and styles. This section delves into genre fiction, science fiction, horror, and crime genres, exploring how authors create and portray characters.

Genre Fiction

Genre fiction, a broad category that encompasses numerous sub-genres, often focuses on well-developed characters to drive the narrative. Authors in this field utilize diverse techniques, including:

  • Emphasizing characters’ internal struggles and emotions.
  • Describing physical appearances and background stories.
  • Using dialogue and interactions to reveal traits.

These character development methods contribute to the overall theme and engagement of the genre fiction stories.

Science Fiction

Science fiction explores futuristic and imaginative concepts, often focusing on world-building and technological advancements. In this genre:

  • Characters may possess unique abilities or superior intelligence.
  • Conflict often arises from the interaction between human nature and technology.
  • Alien species and artificial intelligences can be central characters.

Science fiction authors often use characters to question the boundaries and implications of technological progress.


In horror, character portrayal aims to evoke fear, suspense, and anxiety in the reader. Key elements include:

  • Vulnerable or relatable protagonists, creating empathy from the reader.
  • Supernatural or monstrous antagonists, which embody the unknown and incite fear.
  • Characters reacting to unsettling events or environments.

The portrayal of characters in horror is pivotal in eliciting the desired emotional response from the reader.


Crime fiction explores the investigation and resolution of criminal acts, often through the perspectives of detectives, criminals, or victims. In this genre:

  • Protagonists are often flawed but capable, possessing analytical skills and keen intuition.
  • Antagonists may be cunning, brutal, or manipulative, representing various criminal archetypes.
  • Supporting characters might embody various degrees of morality or provide clues and red herrings.

The depth and complexity of characters in crime fiction contribute to the intricate plotlines and moral dilemmas unique to the genre.

Creating Realistic and Memorable Characters

When creating interesting and memorable characters, writers must invest time and effort in exploring their distinctive identities, character traits, and other qualities. This often entails delving into the character’s psyche, emotions, and thought processes to develop a fully fleshed-out, multi-faceted individual.

By doing so, writers can shape a realistic and sympathetic character that readers can appreciate and understand.

Character Growth

Character growth is essential for making a character three-dimensional and relatable. This involves a character’s ability to learn and evolve throughout the narrative.

By demonstrating progress and resilience when faced with challenges, a character can become more appealing to readers, who may identify with their struggles and triumphs.

Strong character growth strengthens a narrative, making the story more engaging and enriching the reader’s experience.

Internal Changes

A character’s internal changes stem from the emotional evolution they experience during the course of the story. These changes may push characters to revise their fundamental beliefs, values, and attitudes to become a better version of themselves.

As writers delve into the depths of a character’s internal life, they can portray relatable emotions that resonate with readers, thereby forging a connection between the character and the audience.


A multi-dimensional character is one with multiple layers and facets, exuding a profound sense of realism. They possess good and bad traits, strengths and weaknesses, and quirks that make them uniquely relatable. To create such a character, writers must focus on:

  • Developing a rich backstory
  • Incorporating nuanced, believable flaws
  • Offering context for characters’ motivations and decisions

Through these techniques, writers can create intricate and compelling characters who resonate with readers and leave a lasting impression.

Sympathetic Nature

A character with a sympathetic nature is one whom readers can emotionally invest in and empathize with, regardless of their life experiences. Creating sympathy for a character may be achieved through any of the following:

  • Revealing their vulnerabilities
  • Illustrating their moral dilemmas
  • Presenting relatable desires or shortcomings

By employing these approaches, a writer can ensure their character feels authentic and connects with readers on a deeper level.

Representation of Characters in Different Mediums

Characters are essential elements in storytelling, and their representation in various mediums can differ significantly.


Film characters often require a mix of visual and auditory components to convey their personalities and emotions. The interpretation of a character from literature to film can involve changes in appearance, location, or even the relationship with their environment, such as a house or a significant building.

Talent selection and portrayal by the actor or actress also play a crucial role in bringing the character to life on the screen.

For example, a film character living in an antique building might have their story adjusted to include more visual details and showcase the history of the structure. In this way, the character’s relationship with their surroundings becomes a part of their identity, influencing the storyline and adding depth to the narrative.


Television characters, similar to film characters, need both visual and auditory components for effective representation. However, television often allows for the portrayal of more in-depth character development through episodic storytelling.

Connections between characters, their parents, and their homes can be shown in more detail, creating a stronger sense of realism and relatability for the viewer.

In television series, emphasis on the character’s background and relationships with their surroundings, such as their house or other pivotal locations, can help develop a richer plot. Staying true to the essence of the character from its original source, while making adaptations to fit the medium, is essential in television.


Theatre is a different medium, as it relies mainly on the skills of actors and the intimacy of a live performance. The characters in a theatrical production are often adapted from literature or other sources, and their portrayal depends on the actor’s performance, as well as on the script, set design, and other elements that contribute to the production.

The real-time nature of theatre lends a unique sense of immediacy and connection to the characters, which cannot be replicated in film or television.

As the audience witnesses the development and progression of the character’s relationships with other individuals, their home, and the broader context of their world, theatre allows a closer connection with the character due to its live setting.

This intimate experience enables the audience to better understand and empathize with the character, as well as immerse themselves in the story.

Character’s Role in Plot and Theme

Characters play a crucial role in shaping a story as they often drive the narrative forward, leading to the development of the plot and theme.

Plot Development

Characters are fundamental to the progression of a story. The actions and decisions made by the characters contribute to the unfolding of events in a narrative, creating both conflict and resolution. They allow readers to explore the different aspects of the novel and immerse themselves in the story’s world.

As characters interact with one another, they reveal various aspects of their personality, giving readers a better understanding of what drives and motivates them.

Through their development throughout the story, characters can affect the direction of the plot and often contribute to surprising turns of events. This interplay between characters and plot adds depth and nuance to the narrative, making it more engaging and captivating.

Influence on Theme

Characters do more than just move the plot forward; they also play an essential role in conveying the story’s themes. The actions, decisions, and interactions of characters within a narrative often shed light on the ideas and messages that a writer wishes to convey.

This can be manifested in various ways, such as through their dialogue, internal thoughts, or even the way they participate in certain activities like sports or music.

For instance, a story might revolve around a character who overcomes adversity and learns the importance of perseverance. Through their actions and decisions, the character helps convey the theme of resilience, delineating its significance to the readers.

Additionally, as characters undergo transformation, they can portray values relevant to the theme, creating an emotional connection between the audience and the principles presented in the story.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do character archetypes relate to character backgrounds in literature?

Character archetypes are recurring patterns or types of characters found across various literary works and cultures.

These archetypes can help inform character backgrounds by providing a foundational structure for writers to build upon. By drawing from these archetypes, authors can create unique character backgrounds that resonate with readers due to their familiarity and universal appeal.

However, it’s important for writers to avoid relying solely on archetypes, as this can lead to clichés and predictable characters.

How does setting influence character background in literature?

Setting plays a significant role in shaping character background by providing the social, cultural, and historical context in which the characters exist.

The time and place in which a story unfolds can impact the characters’ values, beliefs, and motivations, as well as their relationships with others.

A well-developed setting can enhance character backgrounds, making them feel more grounded and realistic.

What is the role of character backstory in various literary genres?

The role of character backstory can vary across different literary genres. In character-driven genres such as literary fiction and romance, backstory often plays a significant role in shaping character development and relationships.

In action-driven genres like mystery, thriller, or science fiction, character backstory may serve as a foundation for the characters’ motivations but may take a secondary role to the plot.

However, regardless of genre, well-developed character backstories can enrich the narrative and enhance reader engagement.


Character in literature breathes life into stories, inviting readers to traverse the landscapes of human emotion and experience.

A well-crafted character becomes a mirror reflecting our own complexities, desires, and fears. As we follow their journeys, we gain insights into the human condition, ultimately fostering empathy and understanding.

Literature’s characters remind us that beneath the myriad of differences, we are all intrinsically connected. They remain etched in our memories, inspiring personal growth and shaping our perspectives long after the last page is turned. The true power of literature lies in its unforgettable characters.

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Kyna is a writer and aspiring doctor. Besides writing, she likes discovering new music, immersing herself in interactive books, and engaging in multiplayer shooter games. She is passionate about chemistry, human biology, and pharmacology, and is always eager to learn more about these subjects.