* Site-Outage Notice: Our engineering elves will be tweaking the Shmoop site from Monday, December 22 10:00 PM PST to Tuesday, December 23 5:00 AM PST. The site will be unavailable during this time.
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.

Flat Character


We have E.M. Forster to thank for this term. He coined it to refer to characters who are one-dimensional, who lack emotional depth, and who don't change much over the course of the story. In other words, they're as flat as that bottle of Coke you left on your windowsill last week.

If you're already writing these guys off as boring, they're anything but. They do awesome things like help move the plot along, provide comic relief, or act as the big bad. In general, they make the other guys look round (and that's a good thing).

What's that? You want an example? Check out our analysis of Luzhin in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. That's as flat as flat gets.