One of the great joys of screenwriting is character creation. There are so many different kinds of characters out there, the sky is the limit when it comes to your personal creativity.

In the diverse world of storytelling, characters are the lifeblood that pumps vitality into the narrative's veins.

They are the beating heart that brings a story to life, injecting it with emotion, intrigue, and relatability.

From classic literature to modern films, the characters we encounter leave an indelible imprint on our minds, resonating with us long after we've closed the book or left the theater, turned the TV off, shut down our video game, or done any other thing that brings you back to reality.

As a writer, understanding the different types of characters that can populate your stories is crucial.

In this extensive guide, we delve into the varied character types in storytelling, their roles, and how to use them to breathe life into your narratives.

Let's get started.

Main_character_villain'There Will Be Blood'Credit: Paramount Pictures

Character Types by Role

I decided to write this post with a breakdown of not only who your characters can be but how they function within the story. So get ready to combine, mash-up, and extract different points of view, characteristics, and roles to make your heroes and villains pop off the page.

So, who can your character be in the story?

The Protagonist

The protagonist, often the story's hero, is a critical player. This character is the central figure around whom the entire story revolves. They are the character the audience is meant to root for, empathize with, and invest emotionally in. Protagonists can range from the valiant Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in Star Wars to the cunning Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrance) in The Hunger Games.

Hunger_games_mockingjay_part_2'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay'Credit: Lionsgate

The Antagonist

Positioned in opposition to the protagonist, the antagonist is frequently depicted as the villain. This character seeks to thwart the protagonist's mission, creating conflict and tension. The antagonist can be a character like Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) from the Harry Potter series, but remember, they don't necessarily have to be purely evil. Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in Black Panther showed us that if you can see their side, you can create more conflict.

Killmonger-black-panther-1549554289Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger in 'Black Panther'Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Sidekick

Often a deuteragonist or a secondary character, the sidekick is the protagonist's right-hand man or woman. They offer support, advice, and often comic relief, adding depth to the story. Examples would include Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes, Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) in The Lord of the Rings, and Ethel (Vivian Vance) in I Love Lucy.

'The Lord of the Rings''The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'Credit: New Line Cinema

Orbital Characters

Orbital characters, third in importance behind the protagonist and sidekick, often act as instigators, stirring up trouble for the protagonist and providing opportunities for the hero to shine. These characters can range from Tom Sawyer in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in George Lucas's Star Wars.

Two people kissing on a space ship, 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back'Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa kissing Harrison Ford as Han Solo in 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back'Credit: 20th Century Fox

Love Interest

The love interest represents the object of the protagonist's affection, adding a layer of emotional complexity to the story. This character can be a reward, a source of conflict, or a catalyst for the protagonist's growth. Some classic examples include Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Daisy in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Do You Know What a 'Bodice Ripper' Movie or TV Show Is?'Pride & Prejudice'Credit: Universal Pictures

The Confidant

The confidant is a trusted ally of the protagonist. They offer guidance, support, and wisdom, often helping the protagonist navigate their journey. A confidant is an essential tool for revealing the protagonist's thoughts and feelings. Horatio () from Shakespeare's Hamlet and Hermione (Emma Watson) or Ron (Rupert Grint) from Harry Potter are notable confidants.

A trio of young wizards, 'Harry Potter''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'Credit: Warner Brothers

The Foil

The foil character exists to highlight specific traits of the protagonist. By creating a sharp contrast, the foil illuminates the protagonist's strengths and weaknesses.

Foil characters can be antagonists or allies and can add depth and complexity to character relationships. An example is Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) in Parks and Recreation: Leslie, a passionate and optimistic government official, is contrasted with April, her apathetic and sarcastic intern.

Mv5bmgzkzgnmmditndm5ys00n2nklthlnmutmjk3m2e0ywmymdizxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjyyndmwoq._v1_'Parks and Recreation'Credit: NBC

Character Types by Change

Characters can also be classified by the degree of change they undergo throughout the story. The way a character develops can greatly impact the narrative's flow and the audience's perception. And change in TV and movies matters a ton. We want to see how these people evolve over a few hours or over dozens of episodes.

There are two types of change: dynamic and static characters.

Dynamic Character

A dynamic character experiences significant internal change throughout the narrative. This transformation is often a result of the plot's events and conflicts.

Dynamic characters are usually the story's protagonists or significant secondary characters, as their evolution adds depth and complexity to the narrative. An example is Ebenezer Scrooge, who is an old miser at the beginning and then goes through a drastic change by the end.

'A Christmas Carol' dir. Brian Desmond Hurst (1951)'A Christmas Carol'Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Static Character

Static characters, in contrast, do not undergo substantial change throughout the narrative. Their personality traits, beliefs, and attitudes remain consistent, providing a steady presence in the story. Static characters can often serve as anchors or constants amidst the narrative's turmoil. An example here is Atticus Finch, who holds equality beliefs at the start of the story and only has them enforced as time goes by.

What is Indirect Characterization? (Definition and Examples)Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'Credit: Universal Pictures

Round Character vs. Flat Character

In his 1927 book, The Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster introduced the concepts of flat characters and round characters. Forster argued that round characters embody the unpredictable nature of life, possessing depth, intricacy, and authenticity.

On the other hand, he characterized flat characters as lacking dimensionality, existing in a two-dimensional realm.

Round Character

A round character is complex, multi-dimensional, and nuanced. They possess a mix of contradictory traits that create internal conflict and drive their actions. Round characters are often dynamic, evolving, and changing as the story unfolds. Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) in The Color Purple is a round character. We judge her one way watching her, but as we dig into her complex past, we get a lot more information that changes our perception.

Https_undeadwalking.com_files_2015_06_everything-you-doneWhoopi Goldberg as Celie Harris Johnson in 'The Color Purple'Credit: Warner Bros.

Flat Character

Flat characters are straightforward and uncomplicated.

They often serve a single purpose within the story and lack the depth and complexity of round characters. Despite their simplicity, flat characters play a crucial role in driving the narrative forward. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) in The Lord of the Rings are good examples here. Though beloved characters serve as comic relief, they do not undergo significant individual development or change throughout the story. They are consistently portrayed as mischievous and lighthearted hobbits. Even when thrust into battle, they are unabashedly themselves.

Pip801'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'Credit: New Line Cinema

What About Stock Characters?

Stock characters are stereotypical characters that are instantly recognizable to the audience. These characters fulfill specific roles within the story and often adhere to conventional character traits. Despite their predictability, stock characters can add familiarity and relatability to the narrative.

Stock characters are recurring archetypes or stereotypes that are commonly found in various forms of storytelling, including literature, theater, and film. These characters often embody widely recognized traits or qualities and serve specific narrative functions. They are typically predictable and easily recognizable to audiences, as they adhere to established conventions and stereotypes.

Stock characters are often used to fulfill specific roles or purposes in a story.

Some cliche examples of stock characters include:

  1. The Damsel in Distress: A female character who finds herself in a dangerous or helpless situation, requiring rescue or protection from the hero.
  2. The Wise Old Mentor: A knowledgeable and experienced character who guides and advises the hero on their journey.
  3. The Comic Relief: A character whose primary purpose is to provide humor and lighten the mood of the story.

Yoda-and-luke'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back'Credit: 20th Century Fox

While stock characters can sometimes lack depth and complexity, they play a crucial role in storytelling by providing familiar archetypes that audiences can readily connect with and understand. Writers often use stock characters as a foundation to build upon or subvert expectations, adding their unique twists and nuances to make them more compelling and engaging.

This leads us to a deeper discussion of...

Character Types by Their Roles

Every character in a story has a part to play. Based on the role they perform in the narrative, characters can be classified into various types. Some of these fall into character archetypes.

An archetype is a recurring symbol or motif that represents a particular type of character. These characters embody universal patterns and traits, making them instantly recognizable to the audience.

We have twelve of them for you to study.

The 12 Character Archetypes w/ Examples

warrior character archetype

1. The Warrior

Better with a sword and a speech, the warrior is usually the person with the plan. A traditional hero in every sense of the word, they're there to rally the troops and take them into battle. Or to rob a casino. Or out of Egypt. Or across No Man's Land to save troops on the other side.

Strengths of the Warrior:

  • Physical and/or mental prowess
  • Confident
  • Collected
  • Ready for anything

Weaknesses of the Warrior:

  • Egotistical
  • Underestimates opponents
  • Can be overconfident

The Warrior's Motivation:

"Someone has to save the day. Why not me?"

Character Archetype Examples:

  • Captain America (Chris Evans) in Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) in Wonder Woman
  • Danny Ocean (George Clooney) in Ocean's Eleven
  • John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) in Shatf

the child character archetype

2. The Child

Ever think the world was one way and then get a dose of harsh reality? That's the story of the Child. They're young, naive, and need to learn the hard way.

Strengths of the Child:

  • Imaginative
  • Trusting
  • Hopeful

Weaknesses of the Child:

  • Weak in physicality or power
  • Naive to the world
  • Easily taken advantage of

The Child's Motivation:

To learn, obtain happiness, and find the truth.

Character Archetype Examples:

  • Gordie (Wil Wheaton) from Stand by Me
  • Scout (Mary Badham) from To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Alice from Alice in Wonderland

the orphan character archetype

3. The Orphan

The orphan has no idea of their worth until someone shows up and tells them. They're usually anointed as the savior or protagonist of the story. They live a normal life until their circumstances thrust them into the spotlight.

Strengths of the Orphan:

  • They're the chosen one, so they command respect
  • They're survivors
  • They have empathy for the commoners

Weaknesses of the Orphan:

  • They're driven by what others think of them
  • No self-confidence
  • Too eager to please

The Orphan's Motivation:

They want to be accepted and to connect with other people. they want to be understood.

Character Archetype Examples:

  • Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in Harry Potter
  • Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in Star Wars
  • Frodo (Elijah Wood) in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

the creator character archetype

4. The Creator

What's it like to create something from nothing? This character needs to create something palpable or tangible in their world. They'll make any sacrifice necessary to achieve something grander than the world they have now.

Strengths of the Creator:

  • Inexhaustible drive
  • Creative genius
  • Vision

Weaknesses of the Creator:

  • Inability to communicate a vision
  • Alienating perfectionism
  • Work above everyone else

The Creator's Motivation:

The lasting impression of whatever they build. Legacy above all else.

Character archetype examples:

  • Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
  • Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in There Will Be Blood
  • Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) from Chef

the caregiver character archetype

5. The Caregiver

Selfless acts are rare in real life and even rarer in film and television. The caregiver character archetype lives their entire journey trying to help others at all costs. They care about friends, family, or all of the above more than anything else. You can rely on them.

Strengths of the Caregiver:

  • Big heart
  • Selfless acts
  • Generous

Weaknesses of the Caregiver:

  • Easily deceived
  • One track mind
  • Value other's survival over their own

The Caregiver's Motivation:

Protect those they love at all costs. They live to serve.

Character archetype examples:

  • Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Mrs. Weasley (Julie Walters) in Harry Potter
  • Beverly Goldberg (Wendi McLendon-Covey) in The Goldbergs

the mentor character archetype

6. The Mentor

We've said this before, it's hard to succeed in Hollywood without a mentor. The same goes for archetypes. Mentors or sages are wise teachers. They can have magic or logic or both.

Strengths of the Mentor:

  • Wisdom about the world
  • Calming presence
  • Great listener

Weaknesses of the Mentor:

  • Inability to solve their own problems
  • Predictions can go wrong
  • Learned from dark mistakes

The Mentor's Motivation:

To teach the next generation to pick up the gauntlet.

Character archetype examples:

  • Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) in The Karate Kid
  • John Keating (Robin Williams) from Dead Poets Society
  • Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris) in Harry Potter
  • Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) in Marry Poppins

the joker character archetype

7. The Joker

This is the class clown or the stoner. The person just trying to get by in life and comic relief. They can be a cautionary tale or just there for the laughs.

Strengths of the Joker:

  • Everyone likes them
  • They're fun to be around
  • Can have a deep soul

Weaknesses of the Joker:

  • Unreliable in times of need
  • Usually in it for themselves
  • A constant distraction

The Joker's Motivation:

What will make my life easier and what will make me happy?

Character archetype examples:

  • Spicoli (Sean Penn) from Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumba (Ernie Sabella) in The Lion King
  • Megan (Melissa McCarthy) from Bridesmaids

the magician character archetype

8. The Magician

The search for enlightenment can take some people a lifetime. The difference between this person and the mentor is that the Magician has an agenda they want everyone to follow.

Strengths of the Magician:

  • Knowledge
  • Strategy
  • Historical understanding

Weaknesses of the Magician:

  • Hubris
  • Anger if they don't get their way
  • Sometimes war-like

The Magician's Motivation:

They want power and organization. they see chaos in the world and know how to solve the puzzle.

Character archetype examples:

  • Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Infinity War
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Saruman (Lawrence Makoare) in The Lord of the Rings

the ruler character archetype

9. The Ruler

Take me to your leader. This king or queen runs the country or corporation. They're the person you follow and the one who gives the orders. Hopefully, they're good at it.

Strengths of the Ruler:

  • Power
  • Communication
  • Leadership skills

Weaknesses of the Ruler:

  • Control at all costs
  • Paranoia at plots against them

The Ruler's Motivation:

Keep the peace and keep order in society by maintaining their power and getting more power.

Character archetype examples:

  • Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) in Game of Thrones
  • Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) from The Devil Wears Prada
  • King Arthur

the rebel character archetype

10. The Rebel

Life's not fair, and the rebel is sick of it. They won't settle for the average day, not when they think they deserve more. Rebels like people but that doesn't mean they're the first choice to lead. Still, people follow someone who wants to shake the world up.

Strengths of the Rebel:

  • Never give up
  • Can inspire the masses
  • Know how to get a lot out of a little

Weaknesses of the Rebel:

  • Frequently low on the totem pole
  • Has to earn what they get the hard way
  • They have no power and no clear way forward

The Rebel's Motivation:

The world sucks, so let's change it.

Character archetype examples:

  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
  • Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) in Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  • Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) from Friends

the lover character archetype

11. The Lover

Love will keep us together and keep the Lover going. They lead with their heart, which they wear on their sleeve. They're selfless, and even though fully devoted to the one they adore, can sometimes neglect their own health and safety.

Strengths of the Lover:

  • Devoted to another
  • Passionate about the object of their affection
  • Open with their feelings

Weaknesses of the Lover:

  • Willing to die for another
  • Can lose their own personality while pleasing another

The Lover's Motivation:

To give everything they've got to another person. To make any relationship as strong as it can be.

Character archetype examples:

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) in Titanic
  • Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in Game of Thrones

the seducer character archetype

12. The Seducer

Some call them a femme fatale or homme fatale for a man. These are beautiful people using their looks and charm to take control of every situation. They're conniving and value only what they want. And nothing will stop them.

Strengths of the Seducer:

  • Charismatic
  • Beauty
  • Smooth talker

Weaknesses of the Seducer:

  • No morals
  • Controlling
  • No loyalty

The Seducer's Motivation:

To run the show. They want power and control at all costs.

Character archetype examples:

  • Cleopatra
  • Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Iron Man
  • Villanelle (Jodie Comer) from Killing Eve

Summing Up The Diverse World of Character Types in Storytelling

diving into the diverse world of character types in storytelling opens up a vast array of possibilities for creating compelling narratives. From the archetypal hero to the enigmatic anti-hero, from the lovable sidekick to the complex villain, each character type brings its own unique flavor to a story and plays a crucial role in engaging audiences.

By understanding the motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and complexities of different character types, storytellers can craft multi-dimensional and relatable characters that resonate with readers or viewers. These characters serve as vessels through which audiences can explore various themes, emotions, and conflicts, ultimately making the storytelling experience richer and more rewarding.

So get out there and get writing!