Character, the character, characterization
Character, the character, characterization: In its general literary sense, a character is a figure, whether human or nonhuman, in a literary work. Characters may be animals or even nonliving entities, provided that the author gives them the attributes of a human individual.
Occasionally, literary critics use the phrase the character in a highly specialized way to refer to a literary genre that developed in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England and France. In works belonging to this genre, which is based on the late-fourth-and early-third-century B.C. Greek philosopher Theophrastus’s Characters, a character type, rather than a truly individual character, is sketched in a brief work that describes the particular virtue or vice of the character type (such as the braggart soldier or the pedant). Modern versions of the character are generally called character sketches.
The term characterization refers to the means by which authors describe and develop the characters in literary works. First, characters may be flat or round, a distinction English novelist E. M. Forster drew in Aspects of the Novel (1927) that is still in use today. Flat characters are types or caricatures defined by a single idea or quality, whereas round characters have the three-dimensional complexity of real people. Second, characters may be static or dynamic. Static characters do not change significantly over the course of a work, no matter what happens, whereas dynamic characters change, whether for better or worse, in response to circumstance and experience. Third, authors may use direct or indirect characterization. Direct characterization involves explicit presentation or commentary on characters (i.e., telling readers about the characters), whereas indirect characterization involves representing characters’ actions, statements, feelings, and thoughts (i.e., showing readers what characters are like). In either case, for readers to identify with or side against given characters, authors must describe them convincingly and provide compelling motivation for their actions and beliefs.