Round Characters: Traits, Definitions & Examples
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What are round characters?
  2. Traits of round characters
  3. Why round characters matter in storytelling
  4. How to identify round characters
  5. Classic examples of round characters in literature
  6. Modern examples of round characters in literature
  7. Round characters vs. flat characters
  8. Creating round characters for your own story

There's a certain charm in reading a good book, right? It's like entering a new world and meeting interesting characters. Speaking of characters, let's talk about round characters. If you're a writer, a reader, or just someone interested in storytelling, you've likely heard the term "round character". But what does it really mean? Let's dive into the definition of round character and why it's so important in literature.

What are round characters?

When we talk about round characters, we're referring to characters in a story that feel real, like people you might meet in your everyday life. The term "round" doesn't refer to their physical shape, but rather their personality. The definition of round character is a character in a story who has depth, a complex personality, and changes over time.

Here's what makes a character "round":

  • Depth: Round characters aren't shallow. You get to know them deeply, understanding their history, thoughts, emotions, and personality traits. They're not just there to move the plot along — they're people with their own lives and stories.
  • Complexity: Like real people, round characters have layers. They have strengths and weaknesses, dreams and fears. They're not simply "good" or "bad". They're complex, just like you and me.
  • Change: One of the key aspects of round characters is that they change over the course of the story. Maybe they learn something new, overcome a personal hurdle, or just grow as individuals. This change makes them feel alive and dynamic.

So, next time you're reading a book, try to spot the round characters. You'll find that they're the ones you remember long after you've turned the last page.

Traits of round characters

Now that we've defined what a round character is, let's dive into the specific traits that make a character round. These are the aspects you might want to look for when you're reading, or things you might want to include when you're writing.

  • Realistic Reactions: Round characters react to events and situations in ways that feel genuine. They experience a range of emotions and their reactions change depending on what's happening in the story.
  • Internal Conflicts: Just like real people, round characters often grapple with internal conflicts. They might struggle with self-doubt, face tough decisions, or grapple with their past.
  • Personal Growth: A key trait of a round character is personal growth or development over the course of the story. They learn from their experiences and change as a result.
  • Consistent Inconsistency: Sounds confusing, right? Well, just like real people, round characters are consistently inconsistent. They might act out of character in a stressful situation or surprise you with a side of them you've never seen before. It's this unpredictability that makes them feel real and relatable.

Remember, these traits are not set in stone. Different round characters can display different traits, and that's okay. After all, just like real people, characters are unique and diverse. So, keep an open mind and don't box characters into strict categories.

Why round characters matter in storytelling

When you dive into a good book, movie, or TV show, what keeps you hooked? More often than not, it's the characters. Their journeys, their struggles, and their triumphs give you something to root for. But why are round characters specifically so important in storytelling?

  • Engagement: Round characters are often complex and relatable, which makes readers or viewers more invested in their stories. They're not just passive observers, they're emotionally involved.
  • Unpredictability: Because round characters are not one-dimensional, they can surprise us. This unpredictability keeps the plot interesting and engaging.
  • Depth: Round characters add depth to the story. Their personal growth and internal conflicts make the narrative richer and more layered.
  • Relatability: Round characters often display a range of emotions and face real-life challenges, which makes them relatable. As readers or viewers, we see parts of ourselves in these characters, which creates a deeper connection with the story.

So, the next time you're engrossed in a gripping tale, take a moment to appreciate the round characters. Their complexity and growth are likely a big part of why you can't put the book down or why you're binge-watching that series!

How to identify round characters

Now that we've explored the definition of round character, let's move on to identifying them in stories. What signals should you look for? Here are a few telltale signs:

  • Development: Round characters undergo significant growth or change throughout the story. This character development is a key indicator of a round character.
  • Complexity: Round characters are complex and multi-dimensional. They have strengths, weaknesses, and a range of emotions, just like real people.
  • Unpredictability: If you can't quite predict what a character will do next, that's a good sign they're a round character. Their actions and decisions often surprise us because they're driven by a complex set of motivations.
  • Relatability: Round characters are relatable. You might see yourself or people you know in these characters, which helps you connect to the story on a deeper level.

Recognizing these traits in characters will help you identify round characters in whatever story you're reading or watching. You'll be surprised how much richer and more engaging the story becomes when you start paying attention to the round characters!

Classic examples of round characters in literature

Appreciating the definition of a round character becomes easier when we see them in action. Let's delve into some classic examples in literature:

  1. Jay Gatsby from "The Great Gatsby": F. Scott Fitzgerald's titular character, Jay Gatsby, is a classic round character. He's a man of mystery, charm, and deep-rooted obsession. His complex personality and emotional evolution throughout the novel make him a fascinating round character.
  2. Elizabeth Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice": Austen's heroine is not just smart and witty — she's also deeply flawed. Her initial prejudice against Mr. Darcy and eventual change of heart paints a picture of a complex, evolving character.
  3. Hamlet from Shakespeare's "Hamlet": Prince Hamlet's internal struggle, his contemplation of life and death, and his eventual downfall all contribute to his status as a round character. He's multi-faceted, relatable, and surprisingly modern given the age of the text.

These characters stand the test of time, not just because they're well-written, but because they're round. They're complex, they evolve, and they mirror the human experience in a way that resonates with readers, even centuries after they were first penned.

Modern examples of round characters in literature

Now that we've looked at classic literature, let's shift our focus to some modern round characters. These characters prove that the definition of round character is as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago:

  1. Hermione Granger in "Harry Potter": J.K. Rowling's Hermione is more than just a smart girl. She's brave, loyal, and occasionally stubborn. Her journey from an uptight know-it-all to a compassionate and understanding friend makes her a great example of a round character.
  2. Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games": Katniss is tough and resourceful, but she's also vulnerable and deeply affected by the trials she faces. Her transformation and growth throughout the series demonstrate her roundedness.
  3. Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird": Although Harper Lee's novel was published more than half a century ago, Atticus Finch remains a powerful example of a modern round character. He's a principled lawyer and a devoted father who, despite living in a deeply prejudiced society, stands up for justice and equality.

These modern examples of round characters show that this definition of a round character extends beyond classic literature. They can be found in the pages of our favorite contemporary novels, bringing depth and realism to the stories we love.

Round characters vs. flat characters

Understanding the definition of round character becomes easier when you compare them to their counterparts—flat characters. But what exactly are these flat characters, and how are they different from round characters?

In the simplest terms, flat characters are the opposite of round characters. Where round characters are complex, flat characters are simple. They're typically defined by one or two traits and don't undergo significant change or growth during the story. Think of them as the supporting cast—they're there to help move the plot along, but the spotlight isn't on them.

For example, in the Harry Potter series, Argus Filch, the grumpy caretaker, can be seen as a flat character. He doesn't have the emotional depth or complexity that Hermione Granger has, and his personality doesn't evolve much throughout the series.

That said, flat characters aren't necessarily bad. They play a vital role in storytelling. They can provide comic relief, act as foils to the main characters, or simply help to propel the story forward.

So, when it comes to round characters vs. flat characters, it's not about which is better—it's about how they serve the story. Remember that each character, whether round or flat, has their own role to play in making a story meaningful and engaging.

Creating round characters for your own story

Now that we've got a good grasp on the definition of round character, it's time to put that knowledge into action. How can you create a round character for your own story? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Start with a baseline: First things first, you need to know who your character is at their core. What are their fundamental beliefs, values, and personality traits? This forms the base of your character, onto which all other traits and developments will be added.
  2. Add complexity: Round characters are defined by their complexity, so don't be afraid to add layers to your character. This could include conflicting desires, hidden secrets, or inner struggles—anything that adds depth and makes them more human.
  3. Allow for change: Remember, the hallmark of a round character is their ability to grow and evolve. As your story progresses, let your character learn from their experiences and change as a result. This could mean overcoming a fear, changing a belief, or simply gaining a new perspective.
  4. Keep them consistent: While your character should change and grow, they should still remain true to their core self. This means that any changes should be consistent with their established personality and beliefs. Abrupt, unexplained changes can confuse readers and make the character feel less believable.

Creating round characters isn't always easy—it takes time, thought, and a good deal of imagination. But the result is worth it. A well-developed round character can captivate readers, breathe life into your story, and leave a lasting impression long after the final page is turned.

If you enjoyed learning about round characters and want to further develop your skills in creating engaging and expressive characters, check out Rory Duke Stewart's workshop, 'Drawing Compelling Expressions in Character Design.' This workshop will teach you how to effectively convey emotions and expressions in your characters, making them more well-rounded and relatable to your audience.