What Is a Round Character? Definition, Examples & 4 Key Traits

Sarah Rexford
December 04, 2023 | 6 mins

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Round characters take literature from mediocre to classics and oftentimes, keep readers thinking about the character long after they finish the last page. But what is a round character?

In this article, we define what a round character is and discuss the core characteristics of this type of character. Then, we'll give you easy-to-understand examples, and tips for using this new knowledge in your own writing.

Leveling up your writing, connecting more deeply with your readers, and creating a lasting impression on your audience all starts with the simple question: what is a round character? So let’s dive into the answer!

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What is a round character?

Round characters are multi-faceted, layered, and complex characters. They are usually very dynamic characters that you take time to flesh out. In fact, some people use the terms “dynamic character” and “round character” interchangeably.

Just as it takes time to get to know a new friend and discover their preferences, motivations, and inspirations, the same is true for round characters. 

Characters that readers connect with feel human. They embody the traits we do and often portray some – if not a whole list of character flaws – we also work to overcome. 

You’ve likely encountered round characters without even realizing it. Instead, you simply notice the characteristics of specific characters you relate to:

  • The larger-than-life hero who is afraid of snakes
  • The orphan with a destiny that will change the world
  • The girl who acts valiantly despite deep-seated fears 

As a reader, you're more likely focused on the evolving story setting or the grand hero's journey as opposed to the specific types of characters being portrayed.

But as an author, it's important to know and understand the round character definition – and have some tips in your back pocket for effectively writing them into your stories.

4 core characteristics of a round character

We've given you the round character definition. Now, it’s time to learn how to identify round characters clearly.

Here are four core characteristics of dynamic characters – and tips on how to write them into your next book.

1. A complex, multi-dimensional personality

Dynamic characters take time to get to know. Many authors choose to slowly peel back the layers of these characters over time – which is one reason why they often appear in book series.

If you're still not sure about the round character definition, take a look in the mirror. Whether you consider yourself boring, standard, or exceptional, chances are that your personality is more complex than you realize.

Note the duality of who you are, whether as simple as idiosyncrasies or as complex as fears that are in friction with your dreams. Think about how your personality, behavior, beliefs, and actions sometimes contradict themselves.

That's true complexity.

Now, apply this same thought process to your character.

2. Layered weaknesses

We all wish our strengths outweighed our weaknesses, but the fact remains that we are human, and sometimes we make the worse of two choices. For the best characters, the same is true.

Consider the characters you most love, whether from novels or films, and take a moment to remember their weaknesses or fatal flaws. Part of the story arc of a great character is watching them overcome their weaknesses with growing strength. 

However, nobody wants to read characters that are all weakness and no strength. So layer in the weaknesses as the story progresses and give them small triumphs to celebrate.

3. Commentary and experiences that feel real

A round character feels realistic. 

They get blisters, dislike certain colors, always forget to tuck their shirt in, have a specific type of humor (or don’t), and have favorite foods.

Small details portray realism. So don't forget to add these things in to help your readers resonate with your characters on a more personal level.

These real moments also complement the complexity and weaknesses of the round character. For instance, it’s easy to want to get into the best shape of our lives, but taking that run on a rainy day can feel too difficult. As you write your character, keep real-life experiences and choices in mind.

Need some inspiration?

Take up people-watching. Mix up your normal writing process or routine by going to a coffee shop for a day. Notice people's orders, their interactions, how they stand in line, their body language, and how they eat or drink. The smallest details can bring the biggest authenticity to your characters.

4. Notable transformation

In order to truly write a dynamic character, you need to understand that they do not stay the same throughout the story. Their change does not need to be dramatic, but there should be some form of self-discovery or realization.

Consider Severus Snape’s character arc versus Dumbledore’s in Harry Potter (arguably one of the best fantasy book series, but I digress). Both characters are round; both are vital to the plot, but one experiences dramatic change whilst one resolutely remains mostly the same, even in the face of great difficulty. 

Dumbledore is a bit more of a static character. He is interesting, real, and multi-dimensional but remains consistent throughout the series.

While there are many examples of characters undergoing transformations in your favorite novels, you can once again get inspiration from real life.

Study historical figures and famous individuals, many of whom have had their lives thoroughly documented from birth to death. Study how these iconic figures changed over time, noting that progress is often slow and nonlinear. Use these real-life round character arcs as inspiration for your novel.

Before we get into some examples of round characters, it's important to note that this type of protagonist does not belong in every novel.

On occasion, writing a flat character will serve you better. Consider Sherlock Holmes in the book of the same name or Mr. Collins in Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. Sherlock gives familiarity to the series, and Mr. Collins is a comedic, though frustrating, recurrence when we least expect it. 


Examples of round characters

A round character is humanized, whether the protagonist, villain, or supporting character. There are countless examples of dynamic characters, but here is a short list to help get your imagination going:

Notice that this covers protagonists but also secondary characters and even characters with some villain-like qualities. When asking yourself who the dynamic characters in your story are, remember to think outside the box. 

While protagonists are usually round, villains, foil characters, and even orbital characters can embody some of the same characteristics. 

The more you want your audience to connect with the characters in your book, the more important it is to present them with some of the qualities mentioned above. 

Putting a dynamic character into practice

Learning to define a character as round is the first step—putting it into practice is another effort entirely. So how do you do so effectively? 

The key word, like most writing tips, is simple: practice. A helpful way to begin may be to choose a character you have already written and write down details about them you included in the story.

Next, write down a list of details you wish you had included and how you could do so. Finally, choose a scene you really enjoyed writing, open a blank document (or sheet of paper), and rewrite the scene using the traits of a dynamic character listed above.

You can also use a character bio template to really round out the characters in your story.

Surround these characters with many types of personalities to highlight their specific complexities, challenges, and transformations.

Notice the difference between the two scenes, list the pros and cons, and then repeat the process. Happy writing!

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