2: Character Types: Round vs Flat

Choosing my protagonist(s)

This choice is a no-brainer for the romance novel. I’m realizing that creating the characters needs to be number one on my list, before I jump into an outline, so I thought it would be a good time to make a post about these two general types of characters. You’ll see them called ’round and flat,’ but I prefer ‘static and dynamic.’

static (flat) vs dynamic (round) characters

Static and Dynamic Characters

Static/Flat Characters

I’ve notice that when some people hear the term ‘flat characters’ they seem to have a natural tendency to think ‘boring.’ That’s not the case at all. It just means that they don’t change. It doesn’t mean that they are one dimensional, that we can’t know tons about them, or that they have to be relegated to secondary characters.

Most searches for a good example of a flat protagonist will bring up Sherlock Holmes. While true, there are TONS more. Robert B. Parker wrote a lot of books in his lifetime, forty-two of them were about a detective named Spenser. (Spenser was his last name. Parker never gave him a first name because he wanted to name him after one of his sons, but with two sons, he didn’t want to show favoritism.)

From the first book to the last, Spenser is the same – and he’s fascinating and fun through the whole series. (Hawk doesn’t change either… and who would want him to?)

Spenser and Hawk, Spenser for Hire

By Source, Fair use, Link

Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is the same way… except, I got a little tired of her after book eighteen or so. Butcher’s Dresden is a flat character, and he’s excellent all the way through the series too.

When a reader falls in love with a character, they expect to see that character from book to book. A little growth and change in fine, but it needs to be gradual and not change their overall personality.

I made that mistake when I wrote my first book in my detective series. He started off as a drunk who was losing his agency (some tropes are just too easy to pass by) and ended up solving a crime that had weighed on him for five years. At the end of the book, though he was in a hospital bed with rope-burns around his neck, a love interest was waiting when he opened his eyes, he’d all but kicked the booze, and his outlook was way too sunny for my taste. I’d given him too much of an arc. There was nowhere to really go with the next book. So, I’m in the process of taking that book, breaking it into six pieces, and using that story-line as a secondary plot. He’s solving individual mysteries in each book while this bigger thing is also going on. It’s coming out much better that way and I’m able to… well, it’s just a lot better. And even at the end of those six books, he’s not going to be anywhere near as ‘healed’ as I originally wrote him.

Static characters are perfectly fine–but, not in a romance.

Round/Dynamic Characters

This is the choice for a romance novel, for both of the main characters. This just means that there are major changes in the character by the end of the book. Obviously, they will go from not being in love to being in love–that changes anyone. Also, at least one of them will have to go from being closed off to being open. That’s where the major change will come in.

There are a kazillion examples of characters who change in the story. Every romance story and coming of age story ever created is chock-full of them. Honestly, I’m too bored with them and think the category is self-explanatory.

I think I just wanted to rant about seeing so many people say that round characters are “fully fleshed out” and that the reader “knows a lot about them.” That is NOT part of the definition. That should be true about both types of characters if you’re using them as protagonists… or even antagonists for that matter.

WR

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