The Art of the Short Story
The development of characterization throughout history is fascinating. Writers adding knowledge they have learned from the sciences and other disciplines to create their characters. They tell a story but also they tell about the evolution of the human being.
The ancient Greeks were famous for their tragedies, making a character’s downfall a consistent theme.
The anonymous writers in the Middle Ages showed lack of interest in individualized characterization.
Knights and ladies were idealized by the medieval authors in their romances
There was a change in the late Middle Ages and the impulse toward individualism reasserted itself in some of the most memorable characters in the history of literature found in the narrative poems by Dante and Chaucer.
By the early Renaissance the four “humours” were incorporated into fiction writing and characters were born having a choleric, melancholic, sanguine or phlegmatic personality. In the same way, nowadays, other sciences like sociology, psychology and genetics just to mention some, have approached characterization contributing to a wider view of characters and how they have been influenced by the environment as well as by psychological matters.
Naturalist writers contributed by adding the scientific approaches of Charles Darwin and Cesane Lombroso to fictional characters showing a view of human destiny determined by forces of heredity and environment that are beyond the individual’s control, being those the first steps before considering the Freudian psychology as a resource to add the unconscious motives of actions to the psyche of the characters.
Building the protagonist and the antagonist and the antihero is as important as development and motivation in any consideration of fictional characters. In short stories, characters are described as flat or round characters depending on the depth of detail the writers lavishes on them. Characters can also be static or dynamic depending on how they change in the course of the story. A static or a dynamic character can determine the interest of the reader. A dynamic character is much more attractive, appealing than a static one, especially when building a main character.
Motivation may be supplied by the author’s comments or in some other cases authors present a character’s thoughts by using internal monologue, a method of narration like a soliloquy in drama, or stream of consciousness, a way used to duplicate raw sensory data in the same disordered state that the mind receives it in a normal situation.
All in all, with all the changes in the elements of fiction, characterization has developed in parallel with the development of the human race, of a society in continuous change. It will not be surprising to see how the fictional characters in the future will differ from the characters we create nowadays and with the advance of science and technology characters and their roles in the stories will be surprisingly different from the ones we know but amazingly similar to their real counterparts.
For modern writers, characterization is an element of fiction that is equal to plot or even more important than it.
At the end of the day we are all characters in this world seeking for a happy ending. J