What are Character Roles?
Character roles speak to the position characters play in a story and specify the purpose of that character in the story.
Character roles are an important part of story writing and can’t be avoided. If you’re writing a story it is important to know why you include the characters that you do, and what they contribute to the story and the story’s message. There are 7 character roles in literature. These characters mirror and the characters we can be and encounter in our life. Some stories present more realistic characters and others present dramatized versions. A character can be whatever you make them but (if not all) your characters should be characters that readers can recognize, envision, like, or even hate. But a character that has no purpose and brings about no emotion, opinion, or anything is useless.
Character roles are different from character archetypes and types. As you’ll see throughout the next few posts.
The protagonist in the most common and most basic sense is the main character: the character in the spotlight. The world of the story revolves around this main character. Now, the protagonist is not just the person most featured and written about but, the person who wants something struggles to get it and has to fight for it. The protagonist is the character that experiences a change that is or contributes to the main theme/message. This is also the character who will primarily speak or connect to the readers through their experience and perspective.
Primary Purpose: Be the main character, have a goal (want something) and chase after that thing, struggle and change throughout the course of the story.
The antagonist embodies the hurdle or obstacle that hinders the protagonist from reaching their goal. An antagonist is almost always a person, other than the protagonist. But the antagonist can also be the protagonist themself. The antagonist doesn’t always have to be evil: as a friend of the protagonist and is just always getting in the way.
The antagonist also serves as a vehicle that brings and fosters the story’s themes and messages.
Primary Purpose: Make it hard for the protagonist to accomplish their goal/get what they want.
The deuteragonist is like the third most important character (after the protagonist and antagonist) and very close to the protagonist. They can be the best friend or the one that is always around. Duetoeragonists, like antagonists, confidantes, and foil characters also help a story feature different aspects of the protagonist’s life and characteristics of the protagonists.
Primary Purpose: Be consistently there for the protagonist and be highly involved with the protagonist’s life.
Tertiary characters are background characters that fill up the world of the story: the cashier, classmates, teacher, dog walker, show performer, waiter, the person on a line, neighbor, mailman, doctor, cab driver, people in the restaurant, security guards, a friend of a friend, and so on. Tertiary characters can also play brief but important roles. Like a kid who says something to the protagonist after he/she gets some candy that causes the protagonist to come to the realization that he/she hasn’t considered what their own child wants.
Primary Purpose: Fill up the story’s world so that the word is familiar, realistic, and mirrors our everyday interactions.
As is suggested in the name the confidante character is the most trustworthy character(s). This character is easily a crowd and reader favorite. They also support the protagonist in accomplishing their goal and treat the goal as if it is their own, loyal to the protagonist every step of the way. A deuteragonist can be a confidante and can be the best friend or sidekick.
Primary Purpose: Be loyal to the protagonist and support them fully
The love interest is the character that the protagonist has a romantic interest in. This kind of character has a pretty straightforward purpose. But can help the character reach their goals in numerous ways. They can be an ally or a distraction. They can even come in between the protagonist and the deuteragonist/confidante relationship.
Primary Purpose: Be the protagonist type/the person they like
The foil character is the exact opposite of the protagonist in almost all ways: like an opposite mirror. The foil can be an antagonist or a friend. And the Protagonist can love, hate, or be annoyed with them. So long as they bring the best out of the protagonists, essentially helping them reach their goal. The fact that the foil is an opposite mirror of the protagonists is not always something for the protagonist to immediately be aware of. Or be aware of at all. But readers can more easily spot this.
Primary Purpose: Bring out the protagonist’s best qualities.
“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.” — Ray Bradbury
There was a time where I mixed up character roles with character qualities and archetypes and couldn’t tell the difference at all. But there is a difference and you too know the different character roles, types, and archetypes that appear in the books and movies you love to read. These character roles are pretty awesome to read and enjoy but knowing how to create them as a writer requires a bit more effort and brain juice.
How To Use Character Roles When Creating Characters For Your Stories
Character types, archetypes, and roles each have their set rules and things to follow when creating them. But those things can seem like a lot. When creating your characters first be aware of your writing flow. Are your a planner, researcher, spontaneous, experimental, etc. Know what worked for you and then include the character in your story based on that.
If you are a planner maybe plan your characters out before you write them into the story. If you’re experimental then experiment with what you like and when you find it, add the necessary character traits and experience so that they can be a role. If you are spontaneous maybe add on the necessary things for your character when you feel it’s necessary (definitely before the book is done). The point is to be sure the characters have what they need to be the role they are and add those things in a way that ensures your book’s success and finishing.
But a big part of being able to write proper characters into stories is being familiar with how they are incorporated and written into stories (properly and phenomenally).
What is your favorite character from a piece of literature, and what character role do you think they play? And don’t just pick all the obvious protagonists.This post was proofread by Grammarly
Until my next words (on here that is)