Bedford/St. Martin's virtuaLit Interactive Fiction Tutorial Notebook VIEW SEND
Fiction in Depth Approaches and Contexts
Select a StoryElements of FictionCultural ContextsCritical Approaches
Point of View
Style, Tone, and Language
Symbolism, Allegory, and Image


In fiction, character refers to a textual representation of a human being (or occasionally another creature). Most fiction writers agree that character development is the key element in a story's creation, and in most pieces of fiction a close identification with the characters is crucial to understanding the story. The story's protagonist is the central agent in generating its plot, and this individual can embody the story's theme. Characters can be either round or flat, depending on their level of development and the extent to which they change. Mrs. Mallard, in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” though developed in relatively few words, is a round character because she shows complex feelings toward her husband, and her character develops when she envisions the freedom of being widowed. Authors achieve characterization with a variety of techniques: by using the narrative voice to describe the character, by showing the actions of the character and of those reacting to her, by revealing the thoughts or dialogue of the character, or by showing the thoughts and dialogue of others in relation to the character.

protagonist: A story’s main character (see also antagonist)
antagonist: The character or force in conflict with the protagonist
round character: A complex, fully developed character, often prone to change
flat character: A one-dimensional character, typically not central to the story
characterization: The process by which an author presents and develops a fictional character

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