Teaching Students About the Difference Between Flat Characters and Round Characters



In literature, the role of characters is vital, as it conveys the essence of the story and engages readers on an emotional level. By understanding different types of characters, students can better appreciate the complexities of a narrative and incorporate these characteristics into their own writing. Two such characters that often confuse young readers are flat characters and round characters. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two types of characters and provide some practical tips for teaching students to distinguish them in the stories they read and write.

Flat Characters

Flat characters are relatively simple and one-dimensional. They typically serve a single purpose in a story, such as moving the plot forward or providing contrast to more complex characters. These characters do not undergo significant growth or change throughout the narrative, and their personalities or motives may be predictable.

Examples of flat characters may include the helpful shopkeeper, an annoying neighbor, or a standard villain with little backstory or depth. While they may not evolve as individuals, flat characters still play an essential role in crafting an engaging tale by providing stability and context for more dynamic figures.

Round Characters

In contrast to flat characters, round characters are multi-dimensional and experience growth over time. They have distinct personalities, beliefs, and desires that can change through encounters or events in the story. At their core, round characters are dynamic beings capable of evoking a range of emotions from readers.

Popular examples of round characters include Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice,” Harry Potter from J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, or Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” These well-developed individuals showcase complexity and development through their respective narratives, inviting readers to connect with them on a deeper level.

Teaching Tips

1. Begin by introducing your students to literary terminology surrounding flat and round characters. Provide clear definitions for each and discuss some archetypal examples.

2. Encourage class discussions on characters from books or movies, engaging students in debates on whether certain individuals are flat or round. Encourage them to support their opinions with evidence from the text or film.

3. Use visual aids such as diagrams, charts, or illustrations to help students grasp these concepts quickly. For instance, you could create a character comparison chart that highlights key differences between flat and round characters.

4. Students can work in groups to analyze characters from short stories, novels, or films and evaluate their roles in the narrative. Encourage students to consider character motivations and how these figures grow or shift throughout the story.

5. Assign creative writing exercises where students need to develop both flat and round characters for their original stories. Allow them to explore different backgrounds, personality traits, and relationships as they fashion their own compelling narratives.


By teaching students about the difference between flat and round characters, they will gain valuable insights into the essentials of storytelling and characterization. This newfound understanding can significantly enhance their engagement with stories they read and expand their creativity as budding writers. Overall, this crucial literary concept is foundational for both appreciating classic tales and fostering original works of fiction by young storytellers.

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