What is a Character in a Short Story?

What is a Character in a Short Story?

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During the process of short story writing, the writer in a way becomes like an omniscient being. The writer creates a world where there are beings that take of a life of their own and are under the ultimate control of the writer. Iris Murdoch describes a piece of creative writing as:
“A fit house for free characters to live in.”

1.     Who is a character in a short story?


A character in a short story can be a person, animal or any living and non-living being. They can be situated in the real world and be driven by real incidents or they can be totally unrealistic such as extra-terrestrial beings. These characters move the story forward along the plot line by performing different actions and by speaking the dialogues assigned by the writer. These are the reason for the existence of any story because they are the one who fulfill the purpose behind writing a story. Whether a story is written for the purpose of entertainment, to teach a lesson, to


educate or even to persuade; characters fulfill all these dynamic purposes. These purposes are the sole reason why readers relate to the characters that undergo same situations like them.
Example: The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling has different characters namely Harry, Ron, Hermione, the Wesley family etc.

2.     What are the types of Characters?


There are two main types of characters major and minor. Major characters are known as protagonist and antagonist.



Protagonist: This is the central character of the story around which the whole story revolves. All of the decisions made by this character would either be affected by an internal conflict or by external forces such as another character, technology, nature, society or by fate.
Example: In the Harry Potter series the major characters that move the story forward are Harry, , Professor Albus Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione etc.
Antagonist: This can be a single character or a group of characters who cause problems for a protagonist. An antagonist causing hurdles in the way of protagonist to stop him from fulfilling his purpose can either be society in general or a member of a community or a social institution. It can also be nature such as an animal, weather, mountain, lake etc. However, if the origin of the problem is something out the character’s control then it is from fate or God.

Example: The antagonists in Harry Potter series are Draco Malfoy, Lord Voldemort, Dolores Umbridge, Bellatrix Lestrange etc.

Minor Characters:


These characters do not play a major role in story unlike the major characters but the course of their actions has an impact on the decisions made by either the protagonist or an antagonist of the story. While major characters are more growing and dynamic, minor characters are more static.
Major and minor characters can be categorized in the following ways:

Foil: This character usually has qualities opposite to that of a protagonist and is present in the story for the purpose of highlighting the positive or negative traits of the protagonist since readers time and again compare the traits of these two characters. Most of the times an antagonist act as a foil for the protagonist.
Static: These characters do not change throughout the story and are simply there for the purpose of creating or relieving tension within a story.

Dynamic: These characters are prone to change. They learn a lesson and change for the good or bad.
Flat: These characters usually have one or two main traits generally all positive or all negative.

Round: They are opposite of flat characters since they have many different traits, both good and bad, which makes them more interesting to read.
Stock: These include stereotypical characters such as a mad scientist, boy genius, faithful sidekick or an ambitious career person etc.

1.     What is Character Development in a Short Story?


This refers to the level of complexity a character possesses. Some characters since the very start of the short story can be identified as highly developed characters because the writer provides a detailed explanation of the way they walk, talk, think, things they associate with and the secrets that they possess.
There are other characters that develop as the story moves forward. For example in start they might appear one way but as the story progresses they exhibit an entirely different side of their personality. They are either changed by their circumstances or they had this duality all along but the writer just did not give it all away at once.
Example: In the Harry Potter series Hermione’s development is evident as the story progresses. In the start she appears like an ordinary geek but with time readers come to know of her extra ordinary skills with magic spells.

2.     What is the process of creating a character?


Bringing the character to life is a much organized process. A writer needs to make a checklist consisting of different details of a character’s personality. If a writer knows the characters thoroughly before beginning story writing then it would be much easier for him/her to predict his character’s actions or reactions to certain situations. Moreover, the readers would also develop a connection with the story if a writer provides them with the minor details of his/her characters. The process of creating a character consists of following four steps:
Physical Descriptions: The readers are able to visualize the persona of a character through the physical descriptions provided by the writer. So a writer should provide descriptions about height, build, hair color, eye color, scars, style of dressing and any other unusual mannerisms.
Background and Backstory: In order to develop a character the writer needs to provide his backstory because every person and every character has a history. The character’s backstory will enable both a reader and a writer to predict that how would he act or react in certain situations. A

character’s backstory includes information about his parents, his school, childhood memories, his likes and dislikes etc.
Relationships and Interaction: Fictitious characters also exist in a community of people just like real people. A writer should think beforehand about the most important relationships in his character’s life and as the story progresses he should familiarize readers to them. This would help readers to understand that which people have an influence on the character. It is also important to show that how a character reacts with strangers because it is through this interaction that the readers would come to know that whether a character is compassionate or short tempered.
Dialogues and Thoughts: The readers’ thoughts about the character are influenced by the way he/she speaks or thinks. The dialogues of character indicate his feelings for the other characters present in a story and the situations that he or she usually finds themselves in. The inner dialogues of a character also provide an insight into his/her personality and leads towards the personality development of that character.


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