52 Examples of Round Characters in 5 Genres to Learn From

Posted on Aug 24, 2023

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Written by Bella Rose Pope

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We all need examples of round characters to learn from. Round characters have nothing to do with their physical appearance, by the way, and have everything to do with how well you’ve crafted a character that feels real. But by “real” in the book world, we don’t necessarily mean real real.

By “real”, we mean interesting and not perfect. Think of the most interesting person you’ve ever known in your life. That is a person you can base a character on. But even the person you know isn’t who they really are. There’s more to them than you met.

Those details—the unseen pieces of real life that we only get intimate looks at in books—is what this post will be about. Because that’s what readers fall in love with.

But they’re not the easiest to create and for that reason, we’ve compiled a list of examples of round characters so you can get a feel for what’s necessary when doing character development.

What is a round character?

You can think of a round character as a well-rounded character, meaning they have diverse and complex characteristics that make them interesting and intriguing.

We’re not going for one-note characters when we think of roundness. We want conflicting characteristics. We want complexity. We want flaws and weaknesses just as much as we want capabilities and likability.

But as always, examples of round characters will be better than a list of how to create one. You can study each or just refresh your memory on the ones you recognize. Think about what makes each of these characters unique and what rounds them out.

How to Avoid Making a Flat Character

The opposite of round is flat. At least in the character and book writing world. Flat characters are the ones you don’t care about, and probably can’t name. Because they were not very memorable.

They’re the ones where readers comment about them in 3-star reviews saying if they were more complex, your book might’ve gotten 5 stars.

So, how do you avoid that? Here are some quick tips to make a round character:

  • Give them interests completely unrelated to the plot in any way: Make your character a baker or a painter or a collector of odd things. When they have hobbies, they feel more real. There life isn’t only about the core plot, and you can actually use this interest to impact the plot. Just because it’s not about the plot doesn’t mean it can’t help your character throughout it.
  • Make them flawed: Flaws give your character life, and the opportunity to have a character arc. If they’re perfect, there’s no room to grow and you run the risk of making them a Mary Sue, which people don’t like. More importantly, the plot will suffer if your protagonist is perfect. If they get everything right and never have a flaw that causes them to fail, you have no conflict, and therefore no story.
  • Make them unlikeable in at least one way: This can be related to their flaws. If their flaws make other characters (or the reader) not like them, or like them less, it can actually be a good thing. Maybe your super cool hero with a heart of gold makes terrible jokes. They’re just not funny at all. That’s a good way to show that they’re not perfect, and the fact that they’re so bad at jokes might actually be the funny part about them.
  • Give them contrasting characteristics: None of us operates in a 100% logical way. You may have certain opinions that have exceptions. Contrasting traits can be confusing if done poorly, but can make a character much more round if done well. Here’s an example from my novel: My main character Dtomei wants nothing about his life to change. He wants to grow old while drinking around a fire with his friends (he lives in a primitive culture). But he also has this need to make things better because he’s a natural engineer and inventor in his primitive culture. Those two traits don’t go well with one another. If he fulfills the potential he believes he has, then his life will change. This creates the kind of internal conflict necessary for round characters.
  • Make them an anti-hero: What’s more interesting than a hero that’s not really a hero? They’re the opposite. Just be careful not to make your antihero ineffective and pointless to the plot. We don’t want a character that just broods while saving the day. We want a character who wants to do the right thing, but does so in a way that’s not awesome.
  • Ask yourself, “what could make this character not fit into this story?” and give them that trait: It’s a trick I love to use. Most authors create characters so they do fit into the story they’ve created but that makes it too easy. It’s not interesting. Can you give your character traits that make them seem to not fit into the story? How can their personality or qualities make the plot or setting even harder for them to be in? Those traits will add a lot of roundness to them.

These few tips will certainly help, but examples of round characters will always be most helpful. Take a look at these various characters to learn from.

Examples of Round Characters in Romance

If you’re writing a romance novel, getting the main characters right is so important. There’s nothing worse than a love story with a flat character.

Here are some examples of round characters in romance stories:

  1. Elizabeth Bennet – “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: Elizabeth is a strong-willed and intelligent woman who initially judges Mr. Darcy based on his prideful demeanor. As the story progresses, she learns to see beyond her own prejudices and misconceptions, leading to personal growth and a change of heart. If Elizabeth had been overly nice and understanding, it would have led to a boring plot without the witty and interesting banter between her and Mr. Darcy.
  2. Jamie Fraser – “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon: Jamie is a complex character with a blend of strength, vulnerability, and honor. His experiences, relationships, and challenges shape his character throughout the series as he navigates love, loss, and the complexities of time travel. Without giving away spoilers, there are some contrasting characteristics that also serve to make him one of the great examples of round characters.
  3. Claire Randall – “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon: Claire, the protagonist, is a strong-willed and independent woman who finds herself transported through time. Her experiences in both the 20th and 18th centuries shape her character as she adapts to different social norms and romantic dynamics. This story is great because of the deep complexities between the love interests specifically.
  4. Mr. Darcy – “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: Mr. Darcy starts as a proud and reserved aristocrat. His interactions with Elizabeth challenge his assumptions and bring about a transformation in his character as he learns to be more humble and considerate.
  5. Rhett Butler – “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell: Rhett is a complex character known for his charisma and non-conformist attitude. His love for Scarlett O’Hara is a central element of the story, and his personal growth and struggles contribute to the depth of the romance.
  6. Jane Eyre – “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë: Jane is a strong, independent woman with a sense of integrity and self-respect. Her journey from a disadvantaged upbringing to her relationship with Mr. Rochester showcases her development as a character.
  7. Fitzwilliam Darcy – “Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding: A modern adaptation of Mr. Darcy, Fitzwilliam Darcy in this novel is a wealthy, reserved man who initially clashes with the protagonist, Bridget Jones. As the story unfolds, his vulnerabilities and personal growth come to the forefront.
  8. Lara Jean Covey – “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han: Lara Jean is a relatable teenager who navigates the challenges of young love. Her growth and maturation throughout the series make her a well-rounded character.
  9. Hazel Grace Lancaster – “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green: Hazel is a young woman dealing with cancer who falls in love with Gus. Her emotional journey, relationships, and philosophical musings contribute to her depth as a character.
  10. Alex Claremont-Diaz – “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston: Alex is the First Son of the United States and undergoes personal and romantic development as he navigates a relationship with Prince Henry of England. His growth and self-discovery are central to the story.

The key to a great romance story, it seems, are round characters that fall in love with each other despite the many differences that could keep them apart. Make sure to craft those differences so they still work together.

Examples of Round Characters in Fantasy

Fantasy characters are some of the most fun to write, because you get to throw in stuff that doesn’t exist in our own world. What kind of character could you create if they were raised by magical faeries in the woods instead of humans and now need to assimilate into human society?

A round one, that’s for sure.

Here are some examples of round characters that you’d find in the fantasy genre.

  1. Frodo Baggins – “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien: Frodo starts as a humble and innocent hobbit who takes on the immense responsibility of destroying the One Ring. His journey tests his courage, resilience, and sense of duty, leading to personal growth and transformation. It’s also notable to think about how Frodo is all wrong for this job. He’s from his tiny little hobbit town and hasn’t experienced anything. It’s a great example of how you can create a character who’s “wrong” for the role the plot needs and make it better because of that.
  2. Harry Potter – “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling: Harry begins as an orphaned boy who learns about his magical heritage. As he matures, he faces challenges, forms friendships, and grapples with his connection to the dark wizard Voldemort. His experiences shape his character throughout the series. What are the odds that the character who knows nothing about the wizarding world would need to help save it? He’s got all the muggle-ness to make him very round in the wizard world.
  3. Daenerys Targaryen – “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin: Daenerys evolves from a timid girl to a powerful and determined leader. Her journey from being exiled to claiming her birthright as the Mother of Dragons showcases her growth, ambition, and moral complexities. She has a lot of conflict within her that we get to see. She wants to save the slaves, but will kill those who don’t kneel to her. It sometimes doesn’t make sense and that’s what makes her a round character.
  4. Tyrion Lannister – “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin: Tyrion is a complex character who uses his intelligence and wit to navigate the dangerous political landscape of Westeros. His struggles with societal prejudices and his relationships contribute to his multi-dimensional personality.
  5. Vin – “Mistborn” series by Brandon Sanderson: Vin is a street-smart orphan with unique magical abilities. Her development from a wary and distrustful individual to a powerful and confident leader is central to the series’ progression. But she doubts herself. She doesn’t think she’s deserving, despite being a ridiculously powerful mistborn. These traits make her a very round character.
  6. Kvothe – “The Kingkiller Chronicle” series by Patrick Rothfuss: Kvothe is a brilliant and talented young man who recounts his life story. His experiences, successes, and failures shape his character as he seeks answers to mysteries and confronts powerful adversaries.
  7. Arya Stark – “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin: Arya is a determined and fierce character who undergoes significant personal growth as she navigates the challenges of a war-torn world. Her journey to become a skilled assassin adds layers to her personality. Plus, she was raised to be a noble woman, at least for the first ten years of her life. That contrast and understanding of noble life makes her really interesting when she becomes an assassin.
  8. Rand al’Thor – “The Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan: Rand is a shepherd who learns he is the prophesied savior. His struggle with destiny, leadership, and the burdens of power contribute to his complex character arc.
  9. Ged – “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. Le Guin: Ged is a young wizard who grapples with the consequences of his actions and the balance of power. His journey is a coming-of-age story that explores themes of identity and responsibility.
  10. Ciri – “The Witcher” series by Andrzej Sapkowski: Ciri is a princess with a destiny intertwined with the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia. Her growth from a young girl to a powerful and independent figure is a significant aspect of the series.

Even if you don’t read fantasy, I would recommend reading at least one of the fantasy books mentioned here. Fantasy is more than just magic, and has some of the most interesting examples of round characters you’ll find.

Examples of Round Characters in Scifi

*Puts someone in space* “There! They’re round!”

That’s not quite how it works. Cool settings don’t necessary mean interesting characters. Let’s take a look at these examples of round characters you might find in science fiction novels.

  1. Ellen Ripley – “Alien” series: Ripley, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver, starts as a warrant officer on the spaceship Nostromo. Her evolution from a survivor to a fierce fighter against the xenomorph threat showcases her resilience, determination, and growth over the series.
  2. Hiro Protagonist – “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson: Hiro is a hacker and pizza delivery guy in a cyberpunk world. As he gets entangled in a conspiracy involving a powerful drug and a virtual reality metaverse, his journey explores themes of technology, identity, and heroism.
  3. Ford Prefect – “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams: Ford is an alien researcher for the titular guidebook. His humorous and nonchalant approach to Earth and the universe provides a unique perspective on the absurdity of the sci-fi universe.
  4. Ender Wiggin – “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card: Ender is a young boy trained to fight an alien threat in a military academy. His emotional struggles, empathy, and moral dilemmas in the face of a complex war make him a multidimensional character.
  5. Rick Deckard – “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick: Deckard is a bounty hunter tasked with “retiring” rogue androids. His introspection about what it means to be human and his moral dilemmas add depth to the story.
  6. Pris – “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick: Pris is one of the rogue androids that Deckard hunts. Her unique perspective and struggles as a manufactured being contribute to the exploration of identity and empathy in the story.
  7. Jean-Luc Picard – “Star Trek: The Next Generation”: Captain Picard, portrayed by Patrick Stewart, is a central character in the Star Trek series. His leadership, diplomacy, and introspection elevate the show’s exploration of ethical and philosophical issues.
  8. Aloy – “Horizon Zero Dawn” (video game): Aloy is a skilled hunter in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by robotic creatures. Her quest to uncover her origins and the mysteries of her world showcases her determination, intelligence, and growth.
  9. Rick Sanchez – “Rick and Morty”: Rick is a brilliant but deeply flawed scientist who takes his grandson Morty on interdimensional adventures. His complex personality, tragic backstory, and moral ambiguity contribute to the show’s dark humor and philosophical themes. The fact that this person is smarter than we can comprehend while also being terrible at people-skills is laughable. Literally! It’s a comedy for a reason.
  10. Amy – “Her” (film): Amy, voiced by Amy Adams, is a friend of the protagonist who grapples with her own loneliness and the implications of human-AI relationships. Her emotional journey adds depth to the exploration of technology’s impact on human connection.

Examples of Round Characters in Dystopian

Ah, the dystopian genre. The intersection of who we are now and what could be in the future. It’s interesting that dystopian isn’t necessary science-fiction, and that’s because setting alone doesn’t dictate genre, but rather the elements of the story do.

Which is why we have a different genre for what happens to the world when things go wrong.

These examples of round characters are also really good to learn from.

  1. Winston Smith – “1984” by George Orwell: Winston is a low-ranking member of the Party in a totalitarian society. His journey of rebellion against the oppressive regime, his internal struggles, and his eventual fate make him a complex and tragic character.
  2. Offred – “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood: Offred is a handmaid in a theocratic regime where women’s rights are severely restricted. Her inner thoughts, memories, and defiance against the system highlight her emotional depth and resilience. She’s such an interesting character and it’s hard to predict her next move. If you’ve never read this book, do so! It’s one of the best examples of round characters you’ll get.
  3. Katniss Everdeen – “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins: Katniss becomes the symbol of rebellion in a dystopian world where children are forced to participate in deadly games. Her growth from a survival-driven teenager to a leader of a revolution is central to the series.
  4. Guy Montag – “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury: Montag is a fireman tasked with burning books in a society that suppresses knowledge and critical thinking. His awakening to the power of literature and his journey toward self-discovery and rebellion drive the narrative.
  5. Jonas – “The Giver” by Lois Lowry: Jonas lives in a seemingly utopian society where emotions and memories are suppressed. As he learns the truth behind his community’s facade, his moral dilemmas and quest for individuality make him a multidimensional character.
  6. Tris Prior – “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth: Tris lives in a society divided into factions based on personality traits. Her journey of self-discovery, challenging societal norms, and uncovering the truth about her society’s flaws shapes her character.
  7. Moira – “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood: Moira is a close friend of Offred and a symbol of resistance. Her defiance and refusal to conform to the society’s gender roles showcase her strength and determination.
  8. John – “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley: John, also known as “the Savage,” is born outside the conformist world of the World State. His clash with the hedonistic society and his struggles with his own identity provide insight into the flaws of the dystopian world.
  9. June/Offred – “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood: In the sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” June’s daughter, now known as Agnes, provides another perspective on life in the dystopian society. Her experiences and challenges contribute to the layered narrative.
  10. Mae Holland – “The Circle” by Dave Eggers: Mae joins a powerful tech company that aims to connect and control all aspects of people’s lives. Her gradual realization of the dangers of unchecked surveillance and the erosion of privacy adds depth to her character. Not only that, but she herself is interested in the idea of potential—or rather, a lack of fulfilling her potential is her greatest fear. So it makes sense that she’d be interested in how this technology could aid in achieving her own potential, only for the reality to be so much different.

It’s helpful to understand the nature of people in worlds that have seemed to go wrong. These stories do make for some examples of round characters you can learn a lot from.

Examples of Round Characters in Mystery fiction

If you like unpredictable but highly capable characters, the mystery genre will provide a ton of examples of round characters. They’ll always offer quirks and intrigue where other genres might not.

  1. Sherlock Holmes – Created by Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant detective with exceptional deductive reasoning. His unique personality traits, such as his eccentric habits and keen observation skills, make him a memorable and complex character. There are a lot of variations of his character and I think all of them serve as examples of round characters you can model yours off of. The contrast between his personality and what’s necessary for his job is always entertaining.
  2. Hercule Poirot – Created by Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot is a Belgian detective known for his meticulous approach to solving crimes. His distinct personality, quirks, and “little grey cells” contribute to his depth as a character.
  3. Miss Marple – Created by Agatha Christie: Miss Marple is an elderly amateur sleuth who solves crimes in her village. Her astute observations and understanding of human nature make her a compelling and insightful character.
  4. Nancy Drew – Created by Carolyn Keene: Nancy Drew is a young amateur detective known for her intelligence, fearlessness, and determination. Her ability to solve complex mysteries while navigating her personal life adds depth to her character.
  5. Sam Spade – “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett: Sam Spade is a hardboiled private investigator who navigates a web of deception and intrigue. His cynical outlook, resourcefulness, and moral ambiguity make him a well-rounded character.
  6. Kinsey Millhone – Sue Grafton’s “Alphabet” series: Kinsey Millhone is a private investigator with a strong sense of justice and independence. Her personal history, relationships, and growth over the series contribute to her complexity.
  7. Adrian Monk – “Monk” TV series created by Andy Breckman: Adrian Monk is a brilliant but obsessive-compulsive detective. His quirks, vulnerabilities, and the challenges he faces due to his condition make him a multidimensional character.
  8. Hannibal Lecter – Created by Thomas Harris: Hannibal Lecter is a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. His intelligence, sophistication, and chilling charisma contribute to his enigmatic and complex nature.
  9. Veronica Mars – “Veronica Mars” TV series created by Rob Thomas: Veronica Mars is a teenage private investigator with a sharp wit and determination to uncover the truth. Her personal struggles, relationships, and growth over the series make her a well-developed character. The fact that she’s dealing with both teenage challenges and ones that are meant to be reserved for adults puts her in an interesting place, and makes her one of the better examples of round characters in mystery to learn from.
  10. Harry Bosch – Michael Connelly’s “Harry Bosch” series: Harry Bosch is a dedicated LAPD detective with a strong moral compass. His experiences, relationships, and pursuit of justice give depth to his character throughout the series.

While examples of round characters will always help you get better, there’s no substitute for practice or a coach who can help guide you. Getting an outside opinion could be all you need to see how to take a flat character and make them more round, and therefore interesting and captivating.

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