What Is a Round Character? Definition & 25+ Examples

Ever found yourself deeply invested in a book, living vicariously through a character whose complexities, emotions, and transformations echo the unpredictability of real life? That’s the allure of a round character!

These characters are not mere elements that drive a plot; they are artfully crafted individuals with depth and dimensions designed to resonate with readers on a human level.

Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of round characters, exploring how they breathe life into narratives and leave indelible impressions on our minds, one page at a time.

Table of Contents

Defining Round Character

A round character is a complex, dynamic individual found in a literary work, specifically in narrative fiction. Such characters have depth and nuance, and their thoughts, feelings, and actions evolve as the story progresses. You often see them undergoing change and development, either emotional or intellectual.

These transformations help make round characters feel genuine, like real people, adding to the story’s richness and believability.

Round characters captivate readers’ attention with their multi-faceted personalities and emotions. As you experience the story from the perspective of these characters, you can likely relate to their struggles and growth.

One notable feature of round characters is their unpredictability. Unlike flat or static characters, their personalities may seem inconsistent at times, reflecting the complexity of human nature. This quality demands that you, as a reader, stay invested and keep guessing what these characters might do next.

Round Character vs. Flat Character

Round CharactersFlat Characters
DefinitionComplex, well-developed characters with multifaceted personalities.One-dimensional characters with minimal depth and development.
ExamplesElizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice,” Bilbo Baggins from “The Hobbit.”Mr. Collins from “Pride and Prejudice,” the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Psychological DepthHave a deeper understanding of their motivations, thoughts, and feelings.More straightforward and predictable.
Character DevelopmentUndergo meaningful change or experience personal growth.Remain static throughout the story.
Importance to the PlotTypically play a significant role in driving the plot forward.Often have minor, supporting roles.
Tips for Identification– Varied and engaging dialogue and actions.
– Well-developed background and backstory.
– Signs of growth or change.
– Less varied dialogue and actions.
– Little or no backstory.
– Remain mostly unchanged.

Origin of Round Character

Delving into the literary timeline, the concept of “round character” has evolved dramatically. The journey started with ancient Greek dramas, where characters by playwrights like Sophocles and Euripides showcased human-like complexities but were limited to single traits or emotions.

This notion expanded during the Middle Ages, as Geoffrey Chaucer in “The Canterbury Tales” introduced characters with unique traits and distinct personalities. Still, they lacked the complete roundness we understand today.

A significant shift occurred in the 18th century Enlightenment period when authors such as Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson began revealing characters’ inner thoughts and emotions, yet societal norms limited their depth.

The round character, as we recognize it, was truly born in the 19th-century Realist movement. Characters like Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet or Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov depicted complex internal lives, diverse motivations, and capacity for change.

The 20th century took it further, with Modernist and Postmodernist authors exploring the human psyche’s intricacies, leading to more ambiguous and flawed characters.

Today, round characters, reflecting our complexities and contradictions, continue to be an integral part of storytelling, resonating deeply with readers. Here’s to the journey of round characters, as multifaceted and captivating as they are!

Functions of Round Character

Round Character Provides Depth to The Story

A round character is essential in contributing depth to a story, thus making it more engaging and realistic. Through their complex personalities, they allow you, as a reader, to have a richer understanding of the narrative.

By delving into their backstories, struggles, and personal growth, you can often see how these characters assist in creating depth and layering within a story.

Round Character Enables Character Evolution

One of the essential roles of a round character is enabling character evolution throughout the narrative. As a result, you can witness how they grow and adapt to various situations, making the character more relatable and believable to readers.

Writers can use these characters as catalysts for change, illustrating the protagonist’s development alongside the evolving narrative.

Round Character Drives the Plot Forward

Round characters are pivotal in driving the plot forward through their actions, choices, and personal growth. It is through their complexities and rich emotions that they make crucial decisions, which, in turn, shape the story’s outcome.

Round Character Stimulates Emotional Engagement

Since round characters evoke a range of emotions in the audience, they can significantly contribute to the emotional engagement of readers. These characters are typically flawed, undergo personal growth, and frequently face internal conflicts.

By observing their journey, you’re likely to develop empathy toward them and become more emotionally invested in the story.

Round Character Acts as A Foil to Other Characters

Round characters can act as foils to other characters in the story, exposing contrasting traits and allowing the audience to understand the protagonist or other characters better. By showcasing their unique personality traits and motivations, they help to highlight the differences and bring nuance to the narrative.

Characteristics of Round Character

Round Character Exhibits Complex Personality Traits

Round characters possess multiple dimensions, showcasing various aspects of their personalities. These complexities make them relatable and intriguing to readers. You will find that round characters have contradictory traits, display a range of emotions, and can be both virtuous and flawed simultaneously.

Did you know? Protagonists in fiction often have complex personalities to make their triumphs and challenges relate to the reader better.

Round Character Undergoes Development

Throughout a story, round characters typically undergo character development, which means experiencing growth or change in response to the story’s events. This development can be seen as they face challenges, make difficult choices, or learn from their experiences.

You will notice that over time, these evolutions not only enrich the narrative but also make the character more relatable to readers.

Here are some tips for identifying character development in round characters:

  • Look for changes in beliefs, values, or attitudes.
  • Pay attention to shifts in relationships with other characters.
  • Take note of any lessons learned by the character.

Round Character is Realistically Flawed

No one is perfect, and round characters, though they may possess noble qualities, should also have their flaws. These imperfections make them more believable and human.

The flaws in a round character can range from minor quirks to major weaknesses, and they provide opportunities for conflict, growth, and change within the story.

Round Character Shows Consistency in Actions

While round characters are complex and multifaceted, their actions and decisions should consistently align with their core values and beliefs. This consistency adds credibility to the character and helps readers connect with them on a deeper level.

As you explore various characters in literature, pay attention to whether their decisions align with their overall goals, motivations, and personality traits.

Round Character Engages in Significant Relationships

Round characters often engage in relationships that contribute to their development and show multiple sides of their personality. These connections can reveal qualities that may not be apparent through individual actions or decisions, giving readers a more comprehensive understanding of the character’s complexity.

Elements of Round Character

Complex Personality

When it comes to round characters in literature, a complex personality is a key element. You’ll find that these characters often have multiple layers, making them more convincing and realistic. They may experience a range of emotions, display depth and dimension, and often harbor both strong qualities and weaknesses.

As you read or create round characters, you’ll notice they tend to have feelings that evolve throughout the narrative to give a rich and fascinating portrayal.

Here are some tips on creating complex personalities:

  • Dive deep into their emotions and reactions.
  • Explore other perspectives or past experiences that may shape their development.
  • Show how they adapt or change in response to challenging situations.

Development and Growth

A critical element of round characters is their capacity for development and growth. Throughout the story, their experiences often lead to a shift in their beliefs or behavior. In well-crafted fiction, this progression can be subtle or profound, depending on the story’s context.

As you analyze or develop round characters, consider the following aspects:

  • Pay attention to how they learn from their experiences.
  • Observe the progression of their goals and motivations.
  • Assess the evolution of their relationships with other characters.

Realistic Flaws and Strengths

Round characters possess realistic flaws and strengths, making them relatable to readers. These attributes provide depth and dimension to their personalities, preventing them from appearing one-dimensional or stereotypical.

When crafting well-rounded characters, consider the following:

  • Balance their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Portray their flaws as arising from understandable origins.
  • Allow their strengths to play a role in the story’s resolution.

Some practical examples of flaws and strengths in round characters include:

  • Pride balanced with loyalty
  • Ambition contrasted with empathy
  • Courage tempered by self-doubt


While round characters experience growth and change, they also display a level of consistency that anchors them in the world of the story. As you explore these characters in literature or create your own, it’s essential to maintain a coherent core identity that evolves throughout the narrative.

Some tips for achieving consistency in round characters include:

  • Understand their fundamental values and beliefs.
  • Identify their primary motivating factors.
  • Ensure their actions remain consistent with their established personality.

Significant Relationships

In any narrative, the relationships between characters provide critical emotional depth and drive the plot forward. Round characters, in particular, should have significant relationships that influence their development and decisions.

To ensure your round characters have meaningful relationships:

  • Develop a variety of connections for your character, like friends, family, lovers, and even enemies.
  • Show how these interactions affect the character’s growth and thought process.
  • Consider how the character’s relationships change as the story unfolds.

Motivations and Goals

Round characters must have believable motivations and goals that propel them through the story. These aspirations help to create a connection with the reader and make the character feel more realistic.

To build impactful motivations and goals:

  • Establish the character’s desires and objectives.
  • Recognize the reasons behind their actions and decisions.
  • Understand how their goals change throughout the story due to external or internal factors.

Background and History

A well-developed background and history can significantly enhance a round character by providing context for their actions and decisions. This aspect adds depth and richness to a character, making them more believable and engaging.

Consider these tips when developing a character’s background and history:

  • Explore their experiences, successes, and failures.
  • Consider how their past has shaped their present personality.

Types of Round Character


A protagonist is the main character of a story, often experiencing growth, change, or development. They confront and resolve internal and external conflicts, making them an example of a dynamic character. As a reader, you often sympathize with the protagonist’s struggle, wishes, and desires.

In many instances, protagonists possess relatable qualities that resonate with you, allowing you to see their journey from multiple perspectives.

You will notice that protagonists may face moral dilemmas, leading them to question their beliefs or values. This internal conflict drives the story forward by adding depth to the character and providing opportunities for growth.

The process of overcoming external obstacles contributes to the protagonist’s transformation, displaying their adaptability and resilience. In stories with multiple protagonists, these characters may have parallel or intertwined narrative arcs, each following their unique path of development.


The antagonist is the character who opposes or complicates the protagonist’s plans, objectives, and desires. They create conflict by presenting challenges, problems, and obstacles that the protagonist must confront and overcome. An antagonist could be a person, a group, or even an abstract force.

In many cases, the antagonist is a round character, having their own set of motives, desires, and beliefs that influence their actions. These characters undergo changes throughout the story, evolving in response to their confrontations with the protagonist.

Remember that while antagonists are commonly portrayed as evil or morally corrupt, some can be morally ambiguous or even sympathetic. The complexity of an antagonist adds depth to the story and provides new perspectives on the protagonist’s objectives and motivations.

Dynamic Character

A dynamic character is one that undergoes a significant change in personality, beliefs, or perspective throughout the story. This transformation is crucial to their role in the narrative, as it illustrates their development in response to the challenges they encounter.

These changes can occur due to various factors, such as:

  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Facing a moral or ethical dilemma
  • Discovering new insights or information

Dynamic characters are often protagonists or antagonists, but they don’t always have to be. Minor characters can also experience growth and change, contributing to the overall complexity and depth of the narrative.

Conflicted Character

A conflicted character experiences various internal and external struggles throughout their arc. They grapple with personal dilemmas, moral ambiguity, or emotional turmoil. This internal conflict generates tension in the story and propels the character’s development.

External conflicts often stem from interpersonal relationships, sociopolitical issues, or environmental factors. These struggles push the character to assess their values and make decisions that can affect their relationships with others.

Foil Character

A foil character serves to highlight and contrast specific attributes of another character, often the protagonist. Through these comparisons, they emphasize the differences in qualities, beliefs, or experiences that define the primary character.

While a foil character might not undergo personal growth or transformation, its function is to deepen the audience’s understanding of the central figure.

Foils often hold opposing or contrasting perspectives, attitudes, or behaviors, allowing you to gain a better understanding of the protagonist’s traits and decisions.


An anti-hero is a central character who lacks some of the conventional heroic qualities, such as courage, idealism, or morality. They may possess flaws, weaknesses, or morally ambiguous traits that make them more relatable and human.

Despite these shortcomings, the reader may still find themselves sympathizing with the anti-hero’s cause or goals. As the story unfolds, the anti-hero’s motivations and decisions impact their growth and development, providing an alternative perspective on heroism and morality.

Tragic Hero

A tragic hero is the protagonist of a tragedy, possessing positive qualities that ultimately lead to their downfall. These characters often have an internal tragic flaw, such as hubris or ambition, which causes them to make decisions that result in personal failure or devastating consequences.

Due to their downfall, tragic heroes often evoke pity and fear in the audience. However, their experiences serve as a cautionary tale, exploring the consequences of human actions and the limits of personal qualities in the face of adversity.

Examples of Round Character in Literature


In novels, round characters often serve as the main character or significant secondary characters. They are complex and undergo changes throughout the story.

Elizabeth Bennet from "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen 

Elizabeth is a strong, opinionated, and intelligent character who eventually evolves in her understanding of people and relationships.
David Copperfield from "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens 

The story follows David's life as he grows from a troubled childhood to adulthood, learning and changing along the way.
Jay Gatsby from "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Gatsby is a mysterious character with a hidden depth and complexity. His past and motivations are slowly revealed throughout the novel.
Charlotte Aulin from "A Room with a View" by E.M. Forster 

Charlotte is a well-developed character who undergoes a transformation as she faces her own internal struggles and desires.
Hamlet from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare 

Though originally a play, Hamlet's complex character and emotional journey have also been explored in various novel adaptations of the well-known tragedy.

Short Story

In short stories, round characters can still be strikingly complex despite the limited word count.

Miss Brill from "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield 

The protagonist grapples with loneliness and her perception of the world around her, ultimately leading her to a poignant realization.
Nora Helmer from "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen 

Within the limited scope of the play, Nora develops from a seemingly naive and submissive wife to a strong, independent woman.
Mathilde Loisel from "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant 

Throughout the story, Mathilde comes to terms with her materialistic desires and the consequences of her actions.
Désirée from "Désirée's Baby" by Kate Chopin 

The central character experiences heartbreak and growth as she navigates a challenging personal situation.
Sarty from "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner 

Sarty's struggle with loyalty and morality unfolds throughout the story, revealing his depth of character.


Though less common, round characters can also be found in poetry. In some cases, the personas in narrative poems reveal complex emotions and inner struggles.

J. Alfred Prufrock from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot 

Prufrock's character is uncertain, anxious, and self-conscious.
Ulysses from "Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

Ulysses experiences a range of emotions and motivations in his search for purpose.
The Ancient Mariner from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

The character's haunting story reveals his guilt and regret while exploring themes of redemption.
Lady Lazarus from "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath 

The poem's persona grapples with tragedy, defiance, and resilience.
Gwendolen from "Modern Love" by George Meredith 

In this sonnet sequence, Gwendolen is a character portrayed as a complex and conflicted wife.


Literary plays are an excellent medium for portraying round characters, as the dialogue and actions reveal their personalities and emotions.

Hamlet from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare 

Hamlet is a complicated character dealing with grief, betrayal, and questions of morality.
Willy Loman from "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller 

Willy is a struggling character with unfulfilled dreams, coping with his disappointment and the failures he perceives.
Macbeth from "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare 

Macbeth's moral decline and descent into madness are particularly fleshed out throughout the play.
Troy Maxson from "Fences" by August Wilson 

The protagonist's complex relationships and personal growth are central to the play's development.
Blanche DuBois from "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams  

Blanche is an emotionally complex character struggling to hold onto the past while confronting a harsh reality.

Examples of Round Character in Pop Culture


In films, round characters are well-developed individuals with depth and multiple aspects of their personalities.

Shrek from "Shrek" by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson

The titular ogre character starts as a grumpy and reclusive individual. Throughout the series, you see his layers unfold as he falls in love, befriends other characters, and becomes more compassionate.
Truman Burbank from "The Truman Show" by Peter Weir

The reality show's protagonist evolves throughout the film, revealing layers of doubt, determination, and courage as he uncovers the truth about his life.
Luke Skywalker from "Star Wars" by George Lucas

The growth and transformation of the farm boy-turned-Jedi Knight demonstrates his complexities and emotional depth as he faces personal conflicts and galaxy-wide struggles.
Mufasa from "The Lion King" by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

King of the Pride Lands is a bold, nurturing, and wise character, evident in the way he guides his son Simba.
Forrest Gump from "Forrest Gump" by Robert Zemeckis

This heartwarming character navigates through his life with innocence, loyalty, and vulnerability, showcasing his complexity as a round character.
Facts and Trivia

• A quote from Shrek highlights his nature as a round character: "Ogres are like onions. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers."
• Robert Zemeckis won the Best Director Academy Award for "Forrest Gump."

Television Show

Round characters are also prevalent in television shows, as the storylines have more room to expand and deepen those characterizations.

Walter White from "Breaking Bad" by Vince Gilligan

Walter evolves from a timid chemistry teacher to a ruthless drug lord, navigating the worlds of family, friendships, and crime.
Tony Soprano from "The Sopranos" by David Chase

As a mob boss, Tony deals with personal and professional conflicts, highlighting his vulnerability, loyalty, and brutality.
Jon Snow from "Game of Thrones" by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss

The bastard son of House Stark, Jon Snow's journey showcases his struggles with loyalty, duty, and identity.
Meredith Grey from "Grey's Anatomy" by Shonda Rhimes

This surgical resident-turned-attending physician experiences love, loss, and friendship while finding her footing in her career.
Peggy Olson from "Mad Men" by Matthew Weiner

Beginning as a secretary, Peggy climbs the ladder in creative advertising, showcasing a depth of integrity, ambition, and resilience.

Creating Convincing Round Characters

When you create round characters, think about their character development, emotions, motivations, and feelings. These elements will make your characters more realistic and relatable to readers. An effective round character should have a transformation or an arc throughout the novel.

One key aspect to consider when developing a convincing round character is their emotional landscape.

Here are some tips to help in crafting their emotions:

  • Explore a range of emotions, showing how they react to different situations or characters.
  • Don’t shy away from vulnerability, as it can make your characters more relatable and human.

To better understand and portray your characters’ motivations, try these practical examples:

  • List their desires, fears, and goals – both short-term and long-term.
  • Connect their motivations with their backstory, making them more layered and fully developed.

In the course of your novel, your main characters should undergo a noticeable, often surprising transformation. This transformation (or character arc) should affect multiple aspects of their life, as well as their relationships with other characters.

Some ideas to help craft this arc include:

  • Identify the catalysts or events that push your character to change.
  • Show the internal conflicts that arise from the character’s growth.

“The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises, it is flat. If it does not convince, it is a flat pretending to be round.”

E.M. Forster, an English novelist, and literary critic

In-text references can help you provide context for your character’s development. For example, include small details or examples from their past, supporting their actions and decisions in the present story.

These references help the reader see the character’s growth over time and understand their change in behavior, thoughts, or attitudes.

Remember that creating convincing round characters requires attention to character development, emotion, motivations, and feelings. By carefully crafting their arcs and considering their roles within the novel, you’ll establish more memorable and fully developed main characters.

Impact of Round Character

Round Character Enhances Narrative Realism

A round character brings a sense of realism to a narrative, as they are multidimensional and possess a range of emotions and feelings. In contrast, flat characters are often one-dimensional, lacking depth and complexity.

By showcasing diverse emotions, round characters make the story more engaging for the reader.

Fact: Over time, round characters can evolve and develop throughout a narrative, leading to character growth and maturation.
Tip: Including realistic character changes in your narrative will make your story more compelling and credible.

Developing round characters for your story influences a greater sense of authenticity and connection for your readers, immersing them more deeply in the fictional experience.

Round Character Invites Deeper Analysis

Round characters encourage a more profound analysis of the narrative, as their intricate emotions and motives can be explored by the reader.

Here are some practical examples:

  • A character with a mysterious past: Revealing only parts of a round character’s backstory can pique the reader’s curiosity.
  • A character with a strong moral code: Presenting the character in situations where their ethics are tested can make your narrative more thought-provoking.

Readers may find themselves analyzing round characters’ actions, contemplating their decisions, and even comparing themselves to the character, leading to a more layered and rich reading experience.

“If a character is well-drawn, his actions in the story need no explanation, and in that sense every character is self-contained.”

Elmore Leonard

Round Character Influences Reader Empathy

Round characters can generate deeper emotions and empathy from readers, especially when they possess relatable or endearing qualities. You can emphasize a character’s human emotions to create a stronger connection with your audience, allowing them to feel their joy and pain.

In comparison, flat characters may sometimes come across as dull or lack an emotional connection with the reader.

Example: A character struggles with inner turmoil or faces personal challenges, allowing the reader to understand and empathize with their situation.

By forging an emotional bond between your reader and the character, you can manipulate feelings to create more memorable and captivating stories.

Round Character Enables Thematic Exploration

Round characters offer an excellent opportunity to explore various themes in your narrative. Since they have personal beliefs, morals, and motives, these characters can facilitate discussion around different themes such as love, fear, morality, or personal growth.

This thematic exploration enables readers to develop a more profound understanding of the character’s world and the issues being presented. By using round characters to examine these themes, your narrative becomes intellectually stimulating and emotionally impactful for the reader.

Trivia: William Shakespeare often utilized round characters to discuss complex themes, such as the ambitious Macbeth or the self-doubting Hamlet.

Round Character Sets a Benchmark for Character Development

In the world of fiction, round characters serve as a benchmark for character development. They demonstrate what a well-developed and engaging character should resemble. Writers who aim to create compelling and dynamic characters should consider incorporating round characters in their narratives.

Including round characters in your narrative sets a higher standard for character development, making your story more intriguing and the characters more memorable.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the challenges in writing a round character?

Writing a round character can be challenging as it requires careful development of their background, personality, motivations, and emotional depth.

Authors need to ensure these characters evolve realistically throughout the story, maintaining consistency while also allowing space for growth and change.

Can a round character be a villain?

Yes, a round character can certainly be a villain. If a villain is well-developed, possesses a complex personality, and undergoes significant changes throughout the narrative, they would be considered a round character.

Is it necessary for every story to have a round character?

While not every story requires a round character, they often enrich narratives by adding depth, fostering reader engagement, and driving the plot. However, the need for a round character may depend on the story’s context, its themes, and the author’s narrative style.


In the grand tapestry of storytelling, round characters stand out as vibrant threads, lending depth, color, and intricate detail to our narratives. From their humble beginnings in ancient Greek drama to their central place in modern literature, these dynamic personas have evolved, reflecting our own complexities and contradictions.

Whether it’s Elizabeth Bennet’s spirited defiance or Raskolnikov’s tormented psyche, round characters captivate us, providing a mirror to our shared human experience.

As readers and writers, understanding round characters is pivotal, as they drive the plot, engage our empathy, and offer profound insights into the human condition. Ultimately, the round character isn’t just a literary device; it’s a testament to the power of storytelling itself.

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Aerielle Ezra is an enthusiastic student of architecture who has a wide range of interests, including psychology, lifestyle, and relationships. Apart from her studies, she also likes to engage in athletic activities, particularly volleyball. When she is not playing, she spends her free time watching her preferred sitcoms or reading her favorite books, which include fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and horror.