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Article - 'Forms of Characters' by Xanqui

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Mar 25, 2004

Blurb

Xanqui goes back to the basics and breaks the types of characters down to three different types.

Body

Hello! Xanqui here with another article. It’s been a long time since my last one, but I promised to make it worth it with an AMAZING article. Hopefully, this one is AMAZING, but I doubt that. Anyway, I will focus on three types of characters: The Complete Character, The Fraction Character, and the Two Dimensional Characters. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, that’s what this article is about. Otherwise…there wouldn’t be a need for me to write it, would there? No, there wouldn’t. So I wrote this article.

Anyway, before I get into the types, I need to discuss what exactly a character is. A character in any story is a person or living creature that plays a role, no matter how minor. If it’s just standing among the crowd, it’s a character. As long as it moves, breathes, speaks, eats, whatever, it is a character. That’s some pretty basic stuff, right? Of course it is, but it leads into the first type of character.



The Two Dimensional Character
A two dimensional character is a character with a general personality. In a video game, this would be referred to as an NPC; a character that only plays the role of an extra. It’s just one among many who follow the same beliefs or are attempting to achieve the goals of that particular society. These characters do not develop, nor do they change their opinions about anything UNLESS, and this is a big unless, society changes as well. If a character has their own free will, then they are not two-dimensional.

The reason two-dimensional characters are used is because they are there to represent society. Let’s take Lord of the Rings for example. I’ll focus on the orcs. Very few orcs had their own personality, and most were just there to play a part in killing the protagonists. However, some orcs were expressed as more important than other orcs. These were still very two-dimensional, because they never changed.

These types of characters, despite their real lack in personality, can play an important role as representatives of their society. Unless you’re working on a Greek Tragedy, you won’t want every person in society speaking at the same time, which is why you need one or two to represent them.

The reason these are known as two-dimensional is because they follow a fated path. Their fate has already been chosen for them, and there’s nothing they will do about it. They simply accept society as it is. These characters make terrible lead roles in stories. In fact, they don’t do much good if their in the story for very long at all.

Uses of the Two Dimensional Character:
- Minor/Major battles with protagonist
- Provide insight on societies/organizations
- Play a part of the scenery of a town, village, or city



The Fraction Character
Fraction characters are the most common characters in stories. They provide emphasis on certain aspects of human personality. Don’t understand what I’m talking about? Keep reading.

There are three basic aspects of human personality: the id, ego, and superego. The following definitions come from www.dictionary.com

Id - In Freudian theory, the division of the psyche that is totally unconscious and serves as the source of instinctual impulses and demands for immediate satisfaction of primitive needs.
The Id is the most basic aspect of any species. It is the part of the mind that strives for survival. To the id, survival is everything. The id provides us with the ability to realize we need to eat when we’re hungry, fight back when we’re hit, and to kill or be killed.

Characters of the Id are just that way. They don’t care about others; they just do what they can to survive. Reason and meaning are not necessary to the id.

Ego - psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality.
The ego is the understanding of the rules. The ego realizes that it must not kill, and that there can be other means of survival. The ego also thinks about “in the long run”. It knows that crying like a baby may get it some food, but it will only annoy other people.

Basically, it’s the understanding of what’s right and what is wrong. Characters of the ego will share food with others. If helping and caring for others will help in the long run, the ego is there.

Superego - In Freudian theory, the division of the unconscious that is formed through the internalization of moral standards of parents and society, and that censors and restrains the ego.
The superego is the one that searches for reason, and with that reason, forms morals and values. The superego will help others even if it doesn’t benefit them. Fun and games aren’t nearly as important as getting the job done.

Characters of the superego tend to be very intelligent, but caring at the same time. They will do the things that most people wouldn’t want to do, yet are necessities of life. Without the superego, we would have no comforts that we take for granted.

There are many, many different ways to express different aspects of personality, but those are the most basic. If you look at some of the teen action movies, fraction characters are VERY obvious:
- Smart [Usually Asian] guy
- Cute, yet witty/ditsy hot girl
- Stupid [stoner] guy who causes most of the problems
- Lead guy who is also a jack of all trades
- Really young kid who acts more mature than everyone else
- Token black guy

You can mix and match all of those, but they’re in just about every teen movie out there. The sad thing is, I didn’t even have Not Another Teen Movie in mind when I wrote that, which shows how horribly cliché those movies are. But they do provide a good example of different aspects of the human personality. There’s a little intelligence in all of us, there’s some ditsiness, stupidity, and maturity in all of us. Teen movies just break down these aspects and form one character from each of them.

Using fraction characters is an excellent way of looking into your own mind. You can use your own mind to create a storyline if you spend enough time with it.



The Complete Character
These characters are generally portrayed in epic or science fiction stories. These are characters who have a complete personality with all of the aspects humans in real life have. They have strengths and weaknesses, but they are there to serve as part of the storyline, and are not necessarily important to the character’s personality. Just because a character is afraid of spiders doesn’t mean they’ll be rude or bitchy. They are simply afraid of spiders.

Rather than focusing on one aspect of a character, a complete character will need a very well-thought-out personality. They don’t represent anything other than themselves. The best method of creating these characters is to create a bio, like you would for an RP session. Work out age, sex, species, background, and anything else that may play a part in the story.

Most stories that involve a lot of action contain these characters. Most action stories involve down to earth characters that we can relate to in many ways, and sympathize with them.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard is a perfect example of this. He’s basically the average white male who is forced into a situation that could result in the deaths of many people. While not comparable with society, religion, or politics, the average guy will enjoy his character and think “If he can do it, anyone could!”

So why do action stories contain complete characters? Most action stories involve a battle between good and evil, and with a character who everyone can relate to, a story writer can show the capabilities of man when in threatening situations. It also makes it easier to dodge the story and character development. The Matrix Trilogy had hardly any character development, yet no one really seems to have noticed that. But who cares? Neo was the average Joe, Trinity could kick your ass, and Morpheus was cool because he was so smooth and wore those awesome sunglasses. I don’t think character development is necessary! Not even in times of war against robots!



The question you need to ask yourself when creating a character is: “will this character be necessary for the story?” In order to answer that, you need to put it in perspective with other characters first. Do the other characters represent something? If so, you would probably want to avoid using a complete character and stick with the other two types. A complete character does not mix well with fractional characters unless the interactions between them are relevant and portrayed well.

Every character must have some role, no matter how minor.

Since you’ve probably forgotten everything by now, I’ll provide you a quick summary for this article:

Guy who gets killed after being in the story for two seconds – Two Dimensional Character
Guy who represents something from religion, politics, society, or the human mind – Fractional Character
Guy who goes on a long journey to save the princess- Complete Character

Sure, my terminology probably sucks, but those are the terms I use. You can use your own if you want. But that’s pretty much the basics for general characters.

Remember though, there are no rules for storylines. The possibilities are limitless. My articles are only here to guide you, not tell you what to do. I encourage originality and I wholeheartedly understand that this article is not “fact”. I don’t claim to know any more than you do, but I write these in order to help those who may not be as experienced.