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->''"She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B."''
-->-- '''Creator/DorothyParker'''

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A flat character is one that has only the bare minimum of characteristics necessary to play their role in the story. It might be simpler to just have a look at CharactersAsDevice, to cut through all the fog of lit-crit jargon around characterization.

[[TropesAreTools Being flat is not automatically bad.]] Character depth should be proportional to the character's importance to the story. The fact that the cocktail waitress is a leukemia survivor who is working two shifts to pay off her medical bills, all while trying to polish off her doctoral dissertation on Ming-era Chinese poetry, squeezing out enough time to decide which of her three suitors will best be able to get along with her aging, beloved Pomeranian-Pug pup ... all comes under the heading of "too much information." By the time all that is relayed, the customer waiting for his drink has died of thirst.

Indeed, [[TheLawOfConservationOfDetail adding details]] to the character indicates to the audience that the character is to be important. The SpearCarrier, the RedShirt, the BitCharacter may require a Flat Character, to prevent the reader from feeling cheated. This is why we get the FatalFamilyPhoto - if an otherwise interchangeable RedShirt takes the time to establish his hopes and dreams, it's obvious they're going to be dashed in the name of drama. NominalImportance is another example of this.

Characters who start out flat can be [[DynamicCharacter fleshed out]] into {{Rounded Character}}s with CharacterDevelopment, HiddenDepths and/or being RescuedFromTheScrappyHeap. Or some characters can look flat until the RedHerringShirt reveal shows that they are truly full characters. They can also become a StaticCharacter trapped in amber with repeat uses of a ResetButton or SnapBack, negating what little growth they manage; and they may mutate into ''another'' sort of Flat Character with {{Flanderization}}. Some writers intentionally make characters flat to display their unhealthy psyche.

FanFic writers may take the liberty of developing Flat Characters from essentially whole cloth: see OCStandIn for details.

For more fleshed out examples (for lack of a better term), see TheGenericGuy. If you were looking for the trope about characters that are ''literally'' flat, see PaperPeople, SquashedFlat, or maybe PetitePride or ACupAngst.