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Flat Characters vs. Round Characters: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Flat Characters are simplistic and unchanging, while Round Characters are complex and undergo development.
Flat Characters vs. Round Characters

Key Differences

Flat Characters are often defined by a single trait or characteristic, making them predictable and uncomplicated. Round Characters, in contrast, are multi-dimensional and exhibit a range of emotions and behaviors, which makes them more realistic and relatable.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 16, 2023
In literature, Flat Characters serve specific purposes or roles, such as a comedic relief or a plot device, without undergoing significant changes throughout the story. Round Characters, however, experience personal growth, conflicts, and transformations, offering depth to the narrative.
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Flat Characters are typically static, remaining the same from the beginning to the end of the story. This predictability makes them easily recognizable. Round Characters are dynamic, evolving over the course of the story, often surprising the audience with their development.
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The background and motivations of Flat Characters are usually not explored in depth, as they are not central to the plot. In contrast, Round Characters often have well-developed backstories and motivations, which drive their actions and decisions in the story.
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While Flat Characters are essential for advancing the plot or supporting the main characters, they lack depth and complexity. Round Characters, however, are often central to the story, with their personal journeys and complexities being a key focus of the narrative.
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Comparison Chart

Complexity

Simple, one-dimensional
Complex, multi-dimensional
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Development

Static, no significant change
Dynamic, undergoes development
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Role in Story

Often serve a specific, unchanging role
Central to the plot, driving the narrative
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Emotional Depth

Limited emotional range
Exhibit a wide range of emotions
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Backstory

Rarely have a detailed backstory
Often have a well-developed backstory
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Flat Characters and Round Characters Definitions

Flat Characters

A Flat Character embodies a single trait or idea.
The stereotypical jock in high school stories is a Flat Character, focused solely on sports.
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Round Characters

Round Characters often surprise readers with their unpredictability.
Walter White in Breaking Bad is a Round Character, evolving in unexpected ways throughout the series.
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Flat Characters

A Flat Character is a simplistic, one-dimensional figure in a story.
The wicked stepmother in fairy tales is a classic Flat Character, always cruel and unchanging.
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Round Characters

A Round Character is a complex, multi-dimensional figure in a story.
Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is a Round Character, showing intelligence, wit, and emotional growth.
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Flat Characters

Flat Characters support the plot without undergoing personal growth.
In detective stories, the obedient assistant who never questions the detective is a typical Flat Character.
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Round Characters

Round Characters undergo significant development and change.
Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol transforms from a miser to a generous man, exemplifying a Round Character.
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Flat Characters

Flat Characters are predictable and lack complexity.
The loyal sidekick in adventure stories is often a Flat Character, always ready to help the hero.
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Round Characters

A Round Character is characterized by emotional depth and realism.
Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye is a Round Character, displaying a range of emotions and inner conflicts.
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Flat Characters

Flat Characters are those who remain unchanged throughout the story.
In many action movies, the villain's henchman is a Flat Character, consistently following orders without question.
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Round Characters

Round Characters are central to the story, with detailed backstories.
Harry Potter, with his complex past and emotional journey, is a classic Round Character.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can a Flat Character become a Round Character?

Typically no, as they are designed to remain unchanged.
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Are Round Characters always the protagonists?

Often, but not always; they can also be key supporting characters.
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Can a story exist without Flat Characters?

Yes, but Flat Characters often enhance storytelling by fulfilling specific roles.
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Are Flat Characters important in storytelling?

Yes, they play specific roles and support the main plot.
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Can the main villain be a Round Character?

Absolutely, many villains are Round Characters with complex motivations.
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Are Flat Characters always predictable?

Generally, yes, due to their lack of depth and development.
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Is it easier to write Flat Characters?

Yes, because they require less development and backstory.
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Are Flat Characters unimportant?

No, they play crucial roles in supporting the main narrative.
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What defines a Flat Character?

A Flat Character is defined by simplicity and lack of development.
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Do Flat Characters have complex personalities?

No, they are characterized by simplicity and one-dimensionality.
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Can a minor character be a Round Character?

Yes, if they are given enough depth and development.
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Do Round Characters reflect real people?

They are often more relatable and realistic than Flat Characters.
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Can a story have too many Round Characters?

Potentially, as it can make the story overly complex.
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What makes a Character 'Round'?

Complexity, depth, and significant character development.
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Do Round Characters have flaws?

Yes, their flaws contribute to their realism and depth.
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Do Round Characters change the story's outcome?

Often, as their decisions and growth can drive the plot.
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Why are Round Characters crucial in character-driven stories?

Their depth and development make the story more engaging and believable.
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Can a Flat Character have a backstory?

Rarely, as their role doesn't usually require detailed histories.
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How does a Round Character affect the reader's engagement?

They often increase engagement through emotional connection and complexity.
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Are Flat Characters always secondary characters?

Mostly, but they can occasionally be primary characters in simpler narratives.
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Dec 16, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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