Guide to Literary Terms

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What are flat and round characters?

Flat characters are defined by a single trait. Round characters are more complex, expressing numerous traits that are often in conflict.

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Flat and Round Characters

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Flat characters are notable for a single characteristic or personality trait, though they may be described in detail. In contrast, round characters have complex, multifaceted personalities. The way their traits relate to one another is sometimes complicated, just as people are in real life. These traits do not always easily reconcile with one another. 

Flat derives from the Old Norse word flatr, of the modern meaning. Round derives from the Latin word rotundus, which means “round, circular.” Character derives from the Greek word charaktēr, meaning “graving tool” and “graving tool’s mark,” from charattein (“to engrave”).

Examples of flat characters include:

Examples of round characters include:

see: characterization, character

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Figure of Speech