What is the Role of THAT Character?

What is the Role of THAT Character?
May 3, 2016 2 Comments For Authors, Writing J.K. Allen

ErikaWittlieb / Pixabay

What’s a story without a good villain? Or a snappy side kick? While the MC may be the heart and soul of your story, other characters play important roles, too. Do you know what roles are typically needed? Let’s explore some of the more active ones today.

Primary Character:

These are your main characters, meaning the characters that move your story forward. Their decisions and actions affect the plot and the other characters too. Think Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Tris Prior, and Four.

Secondary Character:

These are your supporting characters. They populate your story world. Supporting characters also affect the plot, but they don’t receive as much page time as your main characters and usually support one of your main characters. Minor characters are there to flesh out your world and fill it with interesting characters to add depth to your story. They do not actually affect the plot but still add to the world. Think Rue, Prim, Christina (Divergent), and Peter (Divergent).

Tertiary Character:

These characters serve only one purpose as a stock character or joke character. They are usually involved in only one scene and only one role and have very little purpose or significance. Think Thrush and Susan Black (Divergent).


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Archetype Character:

Archetypes are specific types of characters that represents a universal pattern or symbol. They are the Mentor, the Hero, the Sidekick, the Orphan, and on and on. We all know the types they represent because they come from a universal understanding of those characters. Think Gandalf, Aragorn, Samwise Gamgee, and Harry Potter.


A person (or force) who actively opposes the protagonist and has goals in conflict with the protagonist. They are the ones working against your hero and setting obstacles in their way. Think Voldemort, President Snow, and Jeanine (Divergent).


The leading or central character who remains key in the development of the story. This doesn’t always mean our protagonist is the hero, however. In the Great Gatsby, Nick is our protagonist while Gatsby remains the hero of the story, but usually the protagonist is the hero as well. Think Harry Potter, Katniss, and Tris.

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Remember whichever type of character you write, they must be well-rounded and fleshed out. Read here for more on writing a well-rounded character and here for writing your antagonist. Don’t forget the first issue of our OWS Ink journal is now out featuring stories from all of our columnists and contributors and much more. Click here for more and how to order today.

J.K. Allen Julia Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.

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