Over the years, writers have developed many types of fictional characters. The eight listed here are major types. Protagonists and antagonists appear in every story. The others are included frequently in many narratives.
Antagonist: The character opposed to the protagonist. The antagonist could be a rival or an enemy to the protagonist or a friend who resists the protagonist's actions because the behaviors seem reckless or harmful to the protagonist him- or herself. A short story usually has a single antagonist, but a novel may include several antagonists. In Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, antagonists include Pap Finn, the Duke and the Dauphin, Tom Sawyer, and, indeed, at times, Huck himself. Every story has an antagonist, even if the antagonist is some aspect of the protagonist him- or herself. (See “Protagonist.”)
Confidant (feminine “confidante”): A trusted friend of the protagonist with whom the protagonist shares his or her secrets and to whom the protagonist may look for advice and support. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer is Huck's confidant. Huck confides in Tom that Jim has been captured, and Tom assists in the boys’ efforts to free him.
Dynamic Character: A character, often the story's protagonist, who undergoes significant change (i. e., character development) during the course of the story in which he or she appears. Henry Fleming, the main character of Stephen Crane's Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, is a dynamic character. At first, he acts in a cowardly fashion, fleeing the battlefield. Later, however, he behaves heroically, leading troops against the enemy, and becomes a man of courage and resolve. (See “Static Character.”)
Flat Character: A character whose personality consists of only one or, at most, a few traits. (Each trait can be identified by a single adjective.) In Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Melanie Wilkes is a static character. Throughout the novel, she remains a gracious, compassionate, understanding, and loyal friend to all. (See “Round Character.”)
Foil: A character whose personality traits, being opposite of the main character's traits, highlight the protagonist's personality traits. In Miguel Cervantes's Don Quixote of La Mancha, the realistic, practical Sancho Panza's statements and actions contrast sharply with, and, therefore, underscore, Don Quixote's romantic, often delusional thoughts and behaviors.
Protagonist: The main character of a story. Huckleberry Finn is the protagonist of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Don Quixote is the protagonist of Don Quixote of La Mancha, and Scarlett O’Hara is the protagonist of Gone with the Wind. (See “Antagonist.”)
Round Character: A character whose personality is made up of many traits. (Each trait can be identified by a single adjective.) Henry Fleming is a round character. At the beginning of The Red Badge of Courage, he is a gullible, idealist romantic whose notions about warfare are based only on his reading of books that glorify battle. However, after he himself experiences combat, first fleeing the battlefield and later conducting himself with honor and valor, he comes to understand that war is far from the glamorous spectacle he'd earlier believed it to be. (See “Flat Character.”)
Static Character: A usually minor character who does not undergo change (i. e., character development) during the story in which he or she appears. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck's friend, Tom Sawyer, is a static character. An irrepressible prankster and a gullible believer of the romantic books he reads, Tom remains, at the novel's end, the same figure he was shown to be at the beginning of the novel. The Duke and the Dauphin, the con artists Huck meets on his journey down the Mississippi River, are also static characters. Two of a kind, they never change in their devotion to swindling others. (See “Dynamic Character.”)