Round Characters: Definition, Examples & More

What is a Round Character? Definition, Examples & More!

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Do you want to know what a round character is? Just take a look in a mirror. You, me, and everyone you know are round characters. Ok, not really; we’re all real people, not characters in a book. But, if you were a character, your readers could look at you as an example of a round character. More on that later. 

Today we’re discussing round characters if you haven’t already figured that out. We will define the term round character and look at some examples from books and films. We will also talk about the difference between a round character and the other types of characters, like flat and dynamic characters. 

At the bottom of this article, I’ve listed tips on how to write a round character. Finally, if you want some practice identifying round characters, I’ve left a quiz at the bottom of the page. 

What is a Round Character? 

A round character is a literary term for a richly developed character who has a complex personality. They are not one-dimensional, like flat characters, but are well-rounded with many facets to their personality. Round characters are often the story’s focus, and the reader can learn about them and understand their motivations.

The best thing about round characters is that they feel like real people. You can understand their motivations, and you feel like you know them inside and out. This is because the author has taken the time to develop them fully, giving them a rich inner life.

Round characters are important because they make stories feel realistic and engaging. Readers identify with a round character and become emotionally attached to them. This connection between reader and character creates an exciting experience for the reader. 

What is a round character?

The importance of Round Characters 

Round characters make a story feel real- readers can identify with a round character and view them as real people.

Round characters are more engaging- because round characters feel like real people, readers become emotionally invested in them. A reader invests in the arc of a round character and wants to see them succeed (or fail if the character is a villain) 

Round characters are interesting- unlike flat characters, round characters have more than one or two personality traits. This depth of character makes them more fun to read about and sets them up to have an exciting character arc if they are also dynamic. 

More on the difference between round and dynamic characters in a bit. 

Round Character Definition

A character who is well-developed and fully realized as opposed to a flat character who may be more two-dimensional. Round characters are three-dimensional, with a complex personality, motivation, and backstory. Round characters may also be dynamic, but they do not have to be.

Characteristics of a Round Character 

  • Well-developed characters- resemble real people 
  • Multi-dimensional with several, sometimes conflicting, personality traits
  • Complex motivations & behaviors 
  • A fully developed backstory 
  • Relatable to the reader 
  • May have an internal conflict 
  • Often a central character in the story 

Examples of Round Characters

Now that we’ve discussed the characteristics of a round character, let’s look at a few examples. We can find round characters in literature and film as they are crucial ingredients to any story. We’ll look at examples of both of these mediums. 

Examples of Round Characters in literature 

Johnny & Ponyboy in The Outsiders 

The Outsiders

Johnny Cade, and Ponyboy, from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, are examples of round characters. Johnny is a round character because, although he is tough on the outside, we learn about his softer side throughout the novel. 

For example, when Johnny is dying, he asks Ponyboy to read to him from Gone with the Wind, showing his romantic side. Ponyboy is also a round character because he changes throughout the novel. 

Throughout the novel, the reader sees much of Ponyboy’s personality, and while he starts as a typical teenager, he eventually becomes more thoughtful and understanding.

Both Johnny and Ponyboy are round characters because they are complex and have many different sides. Their development throughout the novel allows readers to understand them better, making them more engaging characters.

Wei-Chen in American Born Chinese 

In the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, we have an example of a round character in Wei-Chen. Wei-Chen is complex and has a lot of depth. He isn’t just a one-dimensional character who is easy to understand. 

Wei-Chen struggles with his identity, and we see this throughout the novel. He is trying to find his place in the world, and he doesn’t always make the best decisions.

Examples of Round Characters in film 

Miles Morales, Into the Spiderverse 

Miles Morales Into the Spiderverse

We have countless examples of round characters to choose from when it comes to movies. Take, for instance, Miles Morales from Sony’s Into the Spiderverse. Miles has several conflicting personality traits. He’s a brilliant student with a talent for STEM subjects. 

But, at night, he sneaks out of the house to explore his artistic side as a graffiti artist. 

This situation creates inner conflict for him because he desperately wants to please his parents but also wants to be true to himself. In the end, Miles embraces all aspects of his identity and becomes the hero he was always meant to be.

Ki-woo, Parasite

Another example of a round character is Ki-woo from Bong Joon-Ho’s 2019 film Parasite. Ki-woo is a clever young man who uses his intelligence to take advantage of others.

But, as the film progresses, Ki-woo realizes the consequences of his actions and develops a conscience. Despite his, intelligence Ki-woo is limited by his family’s low status and financial situation.

Ultimately, Ki-woo can overcome these limitations, but not in time to help the rest of his family.

Round Character vs. Flat Character

A flat character is the opposite of a round character. As we’ve said, a round character is multi-dimensional, with a complex history and motivations. A flat character is a character who is not round or three-dimensional. Flat characters are usually one-dimensional and simplistic. They may be stereotypes or caricatures, and they often have a single personality trait.

Read more about flat characters here. 

Round characters are often the main characters in a story, while flat characters are side characters who only serve as comic relief or push the plot forward. 

Round Characters and Dynamic Characters

Dynamic character is a term that describes a character who changes or grows through the plot of a story. Dynamic characters are characters that experience a character arc. 

A round character can also be a dynamic character. Round characters often end up as dynamic characters. Any round character that changes or grows during a story is also a dynamic character, so a round, dynamic character. 

However, not all round characters are dynamic, and round characters don’t have to experience change or undergo an arc during a story. This lack of change is especially true if the round character is not the main protagonist. 

Read more about dynamic characters here. 

Round characters can also be static characters. 

Static characters are characters who don’t change during the plot of a story. Round characters can be either static or dynamic. A round character who doesn’t undergo major growth or change during a story is a static, round character. 

Tips for writing a Round Character

Tips for writing round characters

Spend a lot of time on the character’s backstory 

A key element of a round character is their personal history. This is an area where you should sit down with a pen and paper or word processor and create a detailed biography for your major characters. 

While you’re writing, realize that not all of the details of this biography will make it into your story. The point of this exercise is so that you, the writer, have a better idea of who your character is and how they will act in a given situation. 

Round characters are shaped by what happened in their past, just like real people. When a round character makes a pivotal decision or expresses a significant fear, you can bet their history informs it. 

Make the character’s motivation clear. 

In addition to their past, when facing important decisions, your character should think about their future, i.e., what they want. Round characters should have obvious goals in the context of the story. 

It doesn’t matter how important or trivial their goal is; what matters is that you have clearly defined that goal for the reader. When a character makes a decision, it is informed by their past and in service to the thing the character wants to achieve. 

Give the character flaws and weaknesses. 

Give your character flaws and weaknesses. Flaws will make your character seem human and relatable. Even the most powerful superheroes have disadvantages; see Kryptonite. A character who can overcome every hurdle thrown at them is a boring character. 

Flaws give your character a way to change in the narrative. This technique is an easy way to turn around character into a dynamic character. Flaws can be universal and straightforward, like an insecure character or a character who is arrogant. Flaws are another way for your reader to identify why your character. 

Remember that perfect is just another word for boring.  

Make sure the character is active, not passive. 

Round characters commit to decisions and make mistakes. Please don’t write a story where things happen to a passive hero. Your hero should be making decisions and taking action.

A round character can be reactive in the first half of your story, and proactive after a climactic event forces them to take control over their fate. But, a round character should never be passive or not take action. Passive characters are another element that will only make your reader bored. 

Create an internal conflict for your character

Round character have complex motivations, and often their wants and needs conflict. A round character may want to settle down to a quiet life on the farm, but they need to set off on adventure in order to learn and grow as a human being.

I’ve made a quiz over character types to round this article out. Use this to practice identifying the four different types of character- round, flat, static, and dynamic. 

Round Character Quizlet 

Wrapping up

We’ve discussed what a round character is and how these characters are different from the other three character types and looked at a few examples. I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice- make sure your story’s protagonist is a round character! This advice may be obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning. Your hero should have everything we talked about in this article- a rich backstory, believable motivation, and multi-faceted personality. An alternate title for this article could be “how to write a protagonist.” So, keep that in mind while writing your next story, and above all, keep writing. 

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Continued reading on round characters: 

Reedsy Blog: Round Characters

Squier- What is a Round Character

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