The World Is Round – People Are Flat

E. M. Forster described characters in literature as either “round” or “flat”.  He says, “The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way.”  Round characters are those that are dynamic, complex, and unpredictable.  They have a reckoning to come to – either with their situation or themselves.

Flat characters are, well, just that.  Flat.  Boring, static, unchanging, and a dime a dozen.  Stereotypes are often projected onto the flat character, as if it were a vehicle for the author’s prejudice.

I’m always interested in the reader’s attraction to the “bad boys” and girls of literature.  We love to hate (or love) the rebel/outcast/villain – which is evident in film, too.  Are you drawn to any unsavory characters?  And is there someone you’d rather not read about, for any reason?

Of course, real life “characters” can be described the same way.  How often have we met a person that is so predictable, so mind-numbingly dull, that we wonder how they stand to wake up to themselves every day?  And do these people tend to collect within certain areas, careers, or locations?  Do you think it is the occupation or environment that effectively “flattens” people, or are they already flat, and naturally drawn to that place?

Related Articles:

The Art of Reading

A Word About Authors

Narrators & Characters, or Who’s Telling This Story, Anyway?