/Different types of characters in a story

Different types of characters in a story

When you are writing, you have different tools and components at your disposal: plot, structure, character, theme, etc. You manipulate these things to make your job the best it can be, and you have a good understanding of how all these things work. component work means you can move them around with intent.

The characters are like pawns. To know what to do with them, you need to know what they are doing in your story: what purpose do they serve, and what will readers expect of them based on similar characters in other stories?

In this article, we are going to talk about the different types of characters in a story that you will encounter through the media (TV, movies, books, etc.). This will not only make it easier for you to analyze the media you find, but it will also help you craft your own work more intentionally and carefully.

character roles

First let’s talk about the characters because of the role they play in your story. This is what they do in story terms, and these terms are used across genres and media (a protagonist is called a protagonist, whether you’re talking about a children’s adventure book or a spooky war movie). .

These roles often overlap: antagonists may start out as deuteragonists, for example, and in a series as heroes of olympus by Rick Riordan, the characters who star in one installment may not get as much page time as they do in another.


The protagonist He is the main character of his story. They are the ones who drive the plot and experience most of the changes, usually. The story is about them, and the main story arc will tie directly into their own internal character arc. A story told from multiple points of view can have multiple protagonists; if this is the case, each character should have a similar weight.

Examples: Luke Skywalker in Star Warsmiles in Looking for Alaska by John Green

character development worksheet


the antagonist is directly opposed to the protagonist. We see this in superhero movies all the time: the antagonist wants to destroy the world while the protagonist wants to save it. They often need to be defeated by the protagonist for the plot to be resolved. The main job of the antagonist is to create trouble for our main characters.

Examples: Sauron in Lord of the Rings, logan roy in Succession, nurse ratched on one flew over the cuckoo’s nest by Ken Kesey


A deuteragonist is the character that is of secondary importance to the protagonist. This is usually the closest friend and companion of the protagonist. Due to their proximity and influence on the protagonist, they play a huge role in the plot and often undergo significant changes themselves: the conflict between the deuteragonist and the protagonist is a common subplot intended to guide the protagonist towards the necessary internal change. to succeed at the climax.

Examples: Dr. Watson in The adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sam Gamgee in Lord of the Rings

tertiary characters

tertiary characters They are the third most important characters in a story. These characters often don’t see much character development, or at least not particularly complicated development: they exist primarily to flesh out the world and add texture and depth to the environment, as well as deliver a piece or two of information to the main cast. They can be citizens, minions, or miscellaneous council members.

Example: Pintel and Ragetti’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

To find out how to name characters, click here.

Hero’s Journey Character Archetypes

An ‘archetype’ is something like the model. An ‘archetypal mother’, for example, would be the image of a mother, not necessarily the perfect mother, but the perfect example of a mother. In hero’s journey, Joseph Campbell describes eight main character archetypes that appear in fiction.

The hero

The hero is usually the protagonist. This is the character who has to fight his internal struggles to defeat the antagonist and save the day in the end; the reader generally supports them and wants them to win. They tend to be aligned with the moral good.

Examples: Captain America from Marvel, Percy Jackson from The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

the mentor

This character exists to offer advice and guidance to the hero. They usually don’t have much of an arc themselves, instead serving as a plot device: appearing when the hero needs a key piece of lore to help them on their inner journey. This character tends to be older, but that’s not necessarily a rule.

Examples: Yoda from Star Wars, Gandalf’s The Lord of the rings


The ally is the right hand of the hero. He is usually the deuteragonist: this person wants to help the main character achieve his goals and his interests are closely aligned with those of the hero. If they get misaligned, this is the source of a huge conflict, as the ally and the hero tend to depend on each other.

Example: Nick Carroway of The Great Gatsby

The Herald

The herald is not always a character; it can be a person, but it can also be an object, such as a message. The herald’s purpose is to announce, or signal, an upcoming change for the hero. This usually happens at the beginning of the story: a character lives his normal life until the herald calls him on an adventure.

Examples: the Hogwarts letter in Harry Potter, the summons of Fiona’s parents in shrek 2

the trickster

The Trickster is there for comic relief. Sometimes this is also the protagonist’s best friend (you see him a lot in buddy cop movies), as having a sidekick along for pranks is an easy way to keep the humor light. He can also provide emotional support or fulfill some other function, but this character is the one you consider ‘the funny one’.

Examples: donkey Shrek, Dandelion of The Wizard

the shapeshifter

While most of the main characters undergo change in some form or fashion, the shapeshifter’s change is different: they cross the line between ally and enemy. Someone who starts out as an ally and is later found to have always been an enemy is one example, as is a redeemed villain who always had a heart of gold.

Examples: Zuko’s avatar the last airbender Rhea Jarrell in Succession

The Guardian

The guardian, also known as the threshold, is a character who stands between the hero and his destiny. They warn the character of the danger ahead, either explicitly in the form of a verbal warning or implicitly by their dangerous nature. The hero has to defeat, outsmart, or avoid the guardian to continue the quest.

Examples: Cerberus of The Lightning Thief from Rick Riordan, The Minotaur of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The shadow

The shadow character is the antagonist, or antagonistic force. This is the threat that looms over the story and that ultimately must be defeated by the hero. They also represent a vision of the world opposite to that of our protagonist; it usually seems like a morally good protagonist representing evil.

Examples: Darth Vader from Star Wars, Gollum’s The Lord of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Character tropes by gender

character archetypes, as you can see from the examples listed above, spans many genres and mediums. However, within specific genres, these archetypes take the form of character tropes.

Tropes are commonly used items within a story – they are building blocks that a reader will instantly assign meaning to based on their previous interactions with that trope.

To learn how to create believable worlds for your character, click here.

Character tropes in science fiction fantasy

The magician

The Magician often acts as a mentor figure. They tend to be older (sometimes centuries old or immortal) and often have some supernatural abilities that grant them transcendental knowledge that they can impart to the protagonist. They also tend to be solitary and reclusive.

Example: Gandalf from The Lord of the rings

The chosen one

The Chosen One is a trope where the main character is literally destined for the plot. They are the only person who can, for some reason provided by the plot, save the day. The Chosen One will often grapple with this enormous responsibility, and his decision to take on that responsibility or abandon it will constitute his inner arc.

Example: Harry Potter

the reluctant hero

The reluctant hero is one who doesn’t want to save the day. They want to go on with their normal lives, but eventually, the plot calls for them to take on the role of the hero.

Example: Shrek

the dark lord

The Dark Lord is a very powerful wizard, sorcerer, or wizard-type character who also often serves as the antagonist of the story. They tend to represent evil and tend to have an all-powerful aura around them – Dark Lords often have armies, minions, etc., which you should also be aware of during your quest.

Example: Voldemort

Character tropes in romance

secret billionaire

The secret billionaire knows that he is a billionaire, but his love interest and the supporting characters in the story don’t. This means that the love interest falls for them simply because of their personality and not because of their money, which is what the secret billionaire is used to, and that is why the secret billionaire will be so resistant to exposing his wealth. .

girl next door

The girl next door is a bit naive, friendly and helpful. They aren’t supermodels gorgeous or incredibly talented in any one particular aspect: their strengths come from their kindness, patience, and down-to-earth sensibility. These are common protagonists in romance novels, as they function as great self-inserts for readers.


The newbie trope, also known as the virgin trope, is where we have a character (most often a young woman) who is completely new to the world of romance, sex, and dating in general. When mishandled, we get characters like Anna from fifty shades, whose naiveté feels almost otherworldly in nature and who is often infantilized for the purpose of fetishizing.

Character tropes in horror/suspense

the scholar

The academic character is the one who does a lot of research (may be a professor, lab assistant, or doctor) and provides this information to the protagonist at some key point in the story. In a supernatural horror, this information could be knowledge about the entity stalking the cast. In a realistic thriller, it could be a detective or a police force sharing what they know with the protagonist.

the amateur detective

The amateur detective, commonly the protagonist, has no crime-solving background. They are often an ordinary person forced to investigate the mystery themselves when the proper authorities are not an option, either by refusing to take up the case or by proving their incompetence.

the lonely monster

The lone monster is usually the antagonist. This character, as his name implies, lives alone, and if the story highlights that loneliness, it could give them a likable edge. This could be a ghost haunting an old asylum, a monster hiding in an abandoned warehouse; they often still need to be defeated by the heroes, but they may not feel too good about it.

character development worksheet