Today, we discussed a couple of the “scenes” that were handed in for “flat characters,” as well as discussing Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s “Farangs.”
We did not get around to my suggesting a new reading, nor did we get to discuss the “Rounded” character. However, the idea of a Rounded Character is pretty easy: the Rounded character is simply the character who seems the most like a “real person” to us. This is mostly because we see rounded characters go through changes during the story.
An excellent example is in the TV show How I Met your Mother. In this show, Barney is a very flat character: he mostly does not seem to change along the way. (He changes a little, occasionally, but usually snaps back into his original shape.)
In contrast, the main character–Ted Mosby–goes through constant changes. Sometimes he questions his decisions about what he wants, or changes his mind. Sometimes he realizes that what he thought he wanted, isn’t want he wants. He makes mistakes. He experiences victories. He grows. He changes.
Another wonderful example of this is the narrator of Lapcharoensap’s “Farangs”… while his mother seems to be trapped in a feeling of anger, in a negative attitude, in a xenophobic mindset, and so on, the narrator seems to be stuck in a pattern too… at the beginning of the story. But as the story goes on, he seems to realize that he is being naive, that maybe he needs to change the pattern. He seems to become dissatisfied and ends up throwing mangoes at the people who he used to hold in such high regard. He seems, in some way, to want to “swim hard” in the same way he encourages his pig, Clint Eastwood, to do.
Therefore, instead of giving you a new reading, I’m going to ask you to reread “Farangs” and consider the following questions:
- How does Lapcharoensap build up the character of his narrator in the story? What are some of the different ways through which we learn facts about him?
- What kinds of decisions does the narrator face, and how does he make those decisions?
- What kind of struggles (there are a few) is the narrator facing? How does he deal with each of them?
- How has the narrator changed–or failed to change–by the end of the story?
You will notice that the Rounded Character is usually a little hard to fit into a “type” catergorization. While Flat Characters often either have stereotypical elements (a sexist, a genius, a lonely old person, and so on) or are stereotypes (the Pirate Captain, the Mad Scientist, the Femme Fatale) the Rounded Character is usually more like a person… just as you usually don’t look at yourself and think of yourself as a “type,” your reader should not look at the Rounded Character and think of him or her as a “type” either. The character is too complex, too much in a state of change, for that.
For your next writing assignment, I would like a 500 word scene in which a rounded character interacts with a flat character. It could be any pair of characters, but here are a few examples:
- a compassionate but concerned parent (Rounded Character) begs and pleads with a wild, rebellious teenager (Flat Character) to stop taking drugs and start doing his or her school work
- the ghost of a romantic, passionate man (Flat Character) tries to use a psychic who doesn’t believe in ghosts, and is simply pretending so she can make money (Rounded Character) to contact his still-living wife
- a crazy pirate who believes he is the King of the Seas (Flat Character) tries to convince a sensible, respectable woman whom he has kidnapped (Rounded Character) to marry him and become a pirate
- a young, slightly ugly high school girl (Rounded Character) decides to try and talk to the biggest hunk in her high school (Flat Character) because she wants him to fall in love with her
Note that in the examples above, some of the Flat Characters could be Rounded, and some of the Rounded Characters could be flat. And yes, some of these examples are from movies.
One more note: just because the Rounded Character in “Farangs” is the narrator, doesn’t meant that all Rounded Characters have to be narrators, or that their stories need to be told in first person. However, it’s relatively uncommon for a story to be narrated by a Flat Character unless the character is very distinctive. And of course, stories in third person (where there is no “I”) still normally have both Flat and Rounded Characters. The difference is that usually the 3rd person narrator telling the story tends to be more sympathetic to the Rounded Character’s point of view, and has more access to his or her thoughts.
I hope that helps. Next class, we will:
- Discuss “Farangs” again in terms of the Rounded Character and the techniques that Lapcharoensap uses to make his Rounded Character, well… so Rounded.
- Discuss some of the homework assignments you submit.
- Create a Critique schedule
- Discuss the next reading/homework assignment.
Sometime before next week, you will receive an email to your Gmail account, regarding the folder system I’ve set up for our class. Please follow the instructions in the email, and be sure to check your Gmail account so that you receive the email!
See you on March 30th!