A character (or fictional character) is a person in a narrative work of art (such as a novel, play, television series or film). Derived from the ancient Greek word χαρακτήρ, the English word dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of "a part played by an actor" developed. Character, particularly when enacted by an actor in the theatre or cinema, involves "the illusion of being a human person." In literature, characters guide readers through their stories, helping them to understand plots and ponder themes. Since the end of the 18th century, the phrase "in character" has been used to describe an effective impersonation by an actor. Since the 19th century, the art of creating characters, as practiced by actors or writers, has been called characterisation.
A character who stands as a representative of a particular class or group of people is known as a type. Types include both stock characters and those that are more fully individualised. The characters in Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1891) and August Strindberg's Miss Julie (1888), for example, are representative of specific positions in the social relations of class and gender, such that the conflicts between the characters reveal ideological conflicts.
The study of a character requires an analysis of its relations with all of the other characters in the work. The individual status of a character is defined through the network of oppositions (proairetic, pragmatic, linguistic, proxemic) that it forms with the other characters. The relation between characters and the action of the story shifts historically, often miming shifts in society and its ideas about human individuality, self-determination, and the social order.
Classical analysis of character
In the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory, Poetics (c. 335 BCE), the Classical Greek philosopher Aristotle deduces that character (ethos) is one of six qualitative parts of Athenian tragedy and one of the three objects that it represents (1450a12). He understands character not to denote a fictional person, but rather the quality of the person acting in the story and reacting to its situations (1450a5). Aristotle defines character as "that which reveals decision, of whatever sort" (1450b8). To Aristotle, "[W]ithout action a tragedy cannot exist, but without characters it may. For the tragedies of most recent [poets] lack character, and in general there are many such poets" (1450a24-25). Aristotle argues for the primacy of plot (mythos) over character (1450a15-23):
But the most important of these is the structure of the incidents. For (i) tragedy is a representation not of human beings but of action and life. Happiness and unhappiness lie in action, and the end [of life] is a sort of action, not a quality; people are of a certain sort according to their characters, but happy or the opposite according to their actions. So [the actors] do not act in order to represent the characters, but they include the characters for the sake of their actions.
Aristotle introduced the tripartite division of characters as superior to the audience, inferior, or at the same level. Tractatus coislinianus similarly defined three character types in Ancient Greek comedy: buffoon (bômolochus), ironist (eirôn), and imposter or boaster (alazôn). All three are central to Aristophanes' Old Comedy.
When the Roman Plautus wrote his plays two centuries later, using characters to define dramatic genres was well established. His Amphitryon begins with a prologue in which Mercury claims that since the play contains kings and gods, it cannot be a comedy and must be a tragicomedy.
Types of characters
Round vs. flat
In his book Aspects of the novel, E. M. Forster defined two basic types of characters, their qualities, functions, and importance for the development of the novel: flat characters and round characters. Flat characters are two-dimensional, in that they are relatively uncomplicated. By contrast, round characters are complex figures with many different characteristics, that undergo development, sometimes sufficiently to surprise the reader.
Dynamic vs. static
Dynamic characters are the ones that change over the course of the story, while static characters remain the same throughout.
Regular, recurring and guest characters
In television, a regular, main or ongoing character is a character who appears in all or a majority of episodes, or in a significant chain of episodes of the series. Regular characters may be both core and secondary ones.
A guest character is one which acts only in a few episodes or scenes. Unlike regular characters, the guest ones do not need to be carefully incorporated into the storyline with all its ramifications: they create a piece of drama and then disappear without consequences to the narrative structure, unlike core characters, for which any significant conflict must be traced during a considerable time, which is often seen as an unjustified waste of resources.  There may also be a continuing or recurring guest character . Sometimes a guest character may gain popularity and turn into a regular one. 
Creation of characters
In fiction writing, authors create dynamic characters by many methods, almost always by using their imagination to create vivid characters. Sometimes characters are conjured up from imagination; in other instances, they're created by amplifying the character trait of a real person into a new fictional creation; in other situations they're created from scratch as a matter of expediency.
A character may be created by a fan fiction author or role-player. The created character does not belong to the canon cast but is inserted anyway for entertainment. Original characters (OCs) overlaps current series or existing series. Many OCs appear as long-lost family members, past lovers, or exchange students. These background stories provide alibis for the sudden appearance and previous absences of the OC. OC may also stand for "other character" or "own character," in this case representing an extremely minor character, introduced or mentioned but not extremely active in an original series.
- Advertising character
- Breaking character
- Character actor
- Character animation
- Character arc
- Character blogging
- Character comedy
- Character dance
- Character flaw
- Character piece
- Character sketch
- Composite character
- Costumed character
- Focal character
- Gag character
- Generic character (fiction)
- Ghost character
- Mary Sue
- Non-player character
- Out of character
- Player character
- Recurring character
- Recycled character
- Secret character (video games)
- Stock character
- Supporting character
- Sympathetic character
- Unseen character
- Baldick (2001, 37) and Childs and Fowler (2006, 23). See also "character, 10b" in Trumble and Stevenson (2003, 381): "A person portrayed in a novel, a drama, etc; a part played by an actor".
- OED "character" sense 17.a citing, inter alia, Dryden's 1679 preface to Troilus and Cressida: "The chief character or Hero in a Tragedy ... ought in prudence to be such a man, who has so much more in him of Virtue than of Vice... If Creon had been the chief character in Œdipus..."
- Aston and Savona (1991, 34), quotation:
[...] is first used in English to denote 'a personality in a novel or a play' in 1749 (The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, s.v.).
- Harrison (1998, 51-2) quotation:
Its use as 'the sum of the qualities which constitute an individual' is a mC17 development. The modern literary and theatrical sense of 'an individual created in a fictitious work' is not attested in OED until mC18: 'Whatever characters any... have for the jestsake personated... are now thrown off' (1749, Fielding, Tom Jones).
- Pavis (1998, 47).
- Roser, Nancy; Miriam Martinez; Charles Fuhrken; Kathleen McDonnold. "Characters as Guides to Meaning". The Reading Teacher 6 (6): 548–559.
- Baldick (2001, 265).
- Aston and Savona (1991, 35).
- Aston and Savona (1991, 41).
- Elam (2002, 133).
- Childs and Fowler (2006, 23).
- Janko (1987, 8).
- Janko (1987, 9, 84).
- Janko (1987, 9, 86).
- Sifakis, Gregory M. (2001). Aristotle on the Function of Tragic Poetry. Herakleion: Crete University Press. p. 50. ISBN 9605241323. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Carlson (1993, 23) and Janko (1987, 45, 170).
- Janko (1987, 170).
- Carlson (1993, 22).
- Amphritruo, line 59.
- Hoffman, Michael J; Patrick D. Murphy. Essentials of the theory of fiction (2 ed.). Duke University Press, 1996. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8223-1823-1.
- Forster, E.M. (1927). Aspects of the Novel.
- The TV Writer's Workbook: A Creative Approach To Television Scripts p. 40
- Epstein, Alex (2006). Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box. Macmillan Publishers. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-8050-8028-7.
- Greg M. Smith, Beautiful TV: The Art and Argument of Ally McBeal, p. 147
- Smith, p. 151
- David Kukoff, Vault Guide to Television Writing Careers, p. 62
- Aston, Elaine, and George Savona. 1991. Theatre as Sign-System: A Semiotics of Text and Performance. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04932-6.
- Baldick, Chris. 2001. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP. ISBN 0-19-280118-X.
- Burke, Kenneth. 1945. A Grammar of Motives. California edition. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969. ISBN 0-520-01544-4.
- Carlson, Marvin. 1993. Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present. Expanded ed. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-8154-3.
- Childs, Peter, and Roger Fowler. 2006. The Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-34017-9.
- Elam, Keir. 2002. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. 2nd edition. New Accents Ser. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28018-4. Originally published in 1980.
- Goring, Rosemary, ed. 1994. Larousse Dictionary of Literary Characters. Edinburgh and New York: Larousse. ISBN 0-7523-0001-6.
- Harrison, Martin. 1998. The Language of Theatre. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-87830-087-2.
- Hodgson, Terry. 1988. The Batsford Dictionary of Drama. London: Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-4694-3.
- Janko, Richard, trans. 1987. Poetics with Tractatus Coislinianus, Reconstruction of Poetics II and the Fragments of the On Poets. By Aristotle. Cambridge: Hackett. ISBN 0-87220-033-7.
- McGovern, Una, ed. 2004. Dictionary of Literary Characters. Edinburgh: Chambers. ISBN 0-550-10127-6.
- Pavis, Patrice. 1998. Dictionary of the Theatre: Terms, Concepts, and Analysis. Trans. Christine Shantz. Toronto and Buffalo: U of Toronto P. ISBN 0-8020-8163-0.
- Pringle, David. 1987. Imaginary People: A Who's Who of Modern Fictional Characters. London: Grafton. ISBN 0-246-12968-9.
- Rayner, Alice. 1994. To Act, To Do, To Perform: Drama and the Phenomenology of Action. Theater: Theory/Text/Performance Ser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-10537-X.
- Trumble, William R, and Angus Stevenson, ed. 2002. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP. ISBN 0-19-860575-7..
-  Paisley Livingston & Andrea Sauchelli, 'Philosophical Perspectives on Fictional Characters', New Literary History, 42, 2 (2011), pp. 337–60.