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Why Is Character an Important Element in Short Stories?


The word character has two meanings. Character refers to a person in a work of fiction and to the characteristics of persons in a work of fiction, their characterization. In a work of fiction, one character is typically the central focus of the story. This person is called a protagonist while the character who opposes the actions of the protagonist is the antagonist. Characterization is the process of how the author presents the character in order to make them seem real to the reader.

The Importance of Characters

Characters are an important element in short stories because they drive the story as a whole. The types of characters that are involved in a story create different types of conflicts and tensions as well as different types of resolutions. For example, a story about a prostitute who tries to start a new life by going to college will have a different set of tensions, conflicts and resolutions than a story about a truck driver who kills a hitchhiker and tries to make amends for his crime. These characters’ desires, hopes, dreams and thoughts are the driving force of the whole story.

Creating Character

A writer creates a convincing character by giving him a particular motivation or desire. As the character follows his true nature and struggles with his inner motivations, he begins to resemble a real person. The way that the writer chooses to reveal his characters varies. Some writers rely heavily on outward appearances. For example, a character may have a hunchback or some other deformity, which implies his evilness or antagonism. Writers may also reveal their characters’ traits using their thoughts, feelings and actions or another character’s thoughts, actions and feelings about that character.

Individual and Dynamic Characters

Because characters are such an important element in short stories, the kind of character that the writer presents is also of the utmost importance to the development of the story as a whole. In general, characters are found in three forms: individual, developing and static. An individual character is round, many sided, and complex in personality. In short stories, protagonists are typically individuals. A developing character is a character who grows throughout the story. The character typically undergoes a personality change as a result of some sort of event, and the change is not necessarily for the better. Good short stories have dynamic protagonists and antagonists because rounder and more complex characters make more interesting stories.

Static Characters

Characters may also be static. Static characters are stereotypical characters who are two-dimensional or flat. These characters never change throughout the story and can typically be summed up in a cliché, such as a "brilliant detective", "Scrooge", or " the cruel stepmother." Occasionally, static characters are secondary characters and are just not developed enough due to the constricted nature of the short story form.

About the Author

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

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