Chapter overview



Analysing characters in fiction

Your lesson progress



Analysing characters in fiction

​​In a nutshell

In fiction, a character is a person in a narrative. The character can be completely made up or based on a real-life person. Characters are very important in a story because they connect with the reader. In this summary, you will learn more about how to analyse characters.

Types of characters


This is the main character whom the story revolves around. This could be DC's most loved superhero Batman, for example.


Most main characters will be faced with a character who opposes what the main character is doing or their beliefs. This is the person that stands in the way and will do whatever it takes to be the source of any drama-filled scenes. Following from the previous example, one of Batman's most notorious antagonists would be the Joker.


Archetypes are examples of the types of characters that are in stories. They often show the characteristics and motives of similar characters in other stories. Examples of archetypal characters would be: 'the hero', 'the villain', 'the bully', 'the damsel in distress'.


A clear example of a 'damsel in distress' would be in classic fairy tales such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. All are examples of helpless women who need saving from 'the hero' of the story. 

The purpose of characters

Different characters have different purposes in a text. It all depends on the type of character they are and what the author has intended for them. The main character drives the plot and lengthens it. All the other characters play a part in how the main character reaches the end of the narrative through their actions and decisions. Remember, sometimes the main character isn't the only one who advances in the plot.  

How characters are portrayed 

There are many ways that an author can present a character and what kind of character they are.


The most common way to do this in a story is through describing the character. 


'There was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion.' 

Daisy Buchanan from 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Readers can understand characters through dialogues. Dialogues can involve the character themselves or come from other characters. It is often interesting when the reader sees other character viewpoints as it allows them to make their own judgement on how they feel towards a certain character. 


'When you durst do it, then you were a man.'

Lady Macbeth from 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare


Readers can infer how a character is through their actions towards other characters. It can reveal to the reader a lot more about how the character is, what their morals are, etc. 


'Count Olaf's face grew very red. For a moment he said nothing. Then, in one sudden movement, he reached down and struck Klaus across the face. Klaus fell to the floor.'

'Bad Beginnings' by Lemony Snicket


Want to find out more? Check out these other lessons!

Character analysis

Drama, poetry and prose

Analysing settings in fiction

Analysing themes in fiction

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  • Question: How are characters portrayed?

    Answer: Characters are portrayed through: description, dialogue and their actions in a narrative.

  • Question: What is the purpose of the main character?

    Answer: The main character drives the plot.

  • Question: What are the different types of characters?

    Answer: There are three main types of characters in fiction: The protagonist, the antagonist and archetypes.

  • Question: What is a character?

    Answer: A character is a person in a narrative. It can be completely made up by the author or based on a real-life person.



Your data protection

We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners who may combine it with other information that you’ve provided them or that they’ve collected from your use of their services. By clicking on either "Accept cookies" or "Necessary cookies only", you agree to this (read more in our Privacy Policy). Privacy Policy