The characters are the ones in charge of making the reader care about the story they are reading or the movie/TV series they are watching. In shorter words: the characters are what matters the most to the reader or viewer. Or to the editor of our novel. Or the producer of our movie.
These people—reader, viewer, editor, or producer—are also our audience: in fact, our first audience and the key that may or may not facilitate access to a broader audience.
But how is this done?
For starters, let’s break the characters into Round and Flat to have a better understanding.
In a future post, I will develop some of the methods that can be used to characterize characters.
What do you think of this classification? Can you apply it to the characters in your story? I would love to read your opinion in the comments!
The Round Characters SHOULD BE the protagonists of our story, those who SHOULD hook our readers because there is NOTHING MORE HORRIBLE than a novel with a FLAT MAIN CHARACTER.
And for the characters to fulfill their role, they only have to do one thing: get the reader to identify with them, not so much in the sense of sharing their desires but in understanding the origin of their strengths and weaknesses.
This will be the first of the necessary qualities of our main characters: the reason.
No one can identify with someone who laughs out loud at the time of his father’s death after being shown as a good son.
Not with a tyrant who disguises himself every night to glide through the dark streets and leave a generous donation in the nearest monastery.
These are episodes that we can tell about in our novel, of course. In fact, these contradictions can be very useful for enriching our main characters. But we must have explained the reason for each of these contradictions before ending our story.
We can and sometimes must use them as a tool to create intrigue, but the reader will feel disappointed if we do not give a satisfactory explanation about them before turning the last page.
The good son could laugh in despair because his father had always said to him that he would die before him if he did not leave his bad life.
The tyrant can give donations because his only daughter, not recognized, was confined in that monastery after the death of her mother.
The reader NEEDS an explanation.
But it has to be an explanation that is consistent with everything that character does in the story.
Round Characters must be complete. They have to have a story and a life behind, even though it is not shown to the reader in all its expression.
They must have hobbies, customs, affiliations or phobias.
They have to like listening to the radio or not, talk to strangers or not, they have to be great singers, mediocre singers or have the voice of a hoarse crow, they have to like to eat a lot, or they will eat just to survive, etc.
They will have to stop being characters to be, in short, people.
Only in this way will we get the reader to reflect on them and want to know how the demons will manage to overcome the obstacles that we have faced throughout our history.
The Flat Characters SHOULD BE those secondary characters that serve to make our main characters (our Round Characters according to this classification) achieve their objective… or not.
They should be that waiter who takes a call to the protagonist while he is eating in the hotel restaurant.
That taxi driver who offers the main character an apparently insignificant talk while traveling towards his or her goal, but who is really very closely related to the main theme that the novel deals with, with the internal conflict that our protagonist is facing.
The main quality of these characters must be simplicity. They will only appear in a few lines of our novel (or a single sequence from our movie), so we will have to make things clear as soon as possible and define them with just a couple of strokes.
The waiter is under pressure and at the same time, subservient.
The taxi driver is crude in appearance, but with a very good heart.
The clichés can be a great ally of ours in this work (the figure of the nice, chubby, coworker, or the intellectual who wears glasses, etc.) but it is not convenient to abuse them.