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1.2 Round and flat characters

What about minor or peripheral characters? How deeply do they have to be imagined?

Activity 2

Click on ‘Round and flat characters’ below to read the next section. Showing the contradictions in characters is one way of making them ‘round’.

Round and flat characters [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Take one of the stereotypes mentioned (shifty-eyed thief, jovial fatso, etc.) or use one of your own. Write a brief scene in which you portray that character in a complex way, going against the usual expectations.


  • the bullying headmaster with a tender sentimental side;
  • the meticulous manager who lives in a messy house;
  • the shy librarian who goes bungee-jumping;
  • the habitual flirt who avoids relationships.


Check what you’ve written to see if you’ve shown the character in a sympathetic light. If your portrayal seems distant or aloof, rewrite it. Try to identify more closely with the character. If you haven’t already used the first person (‘I’), write it in the character’s own voice. Does that makes a difference?