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In the story I'm writing, I want to include a character who is a free radical. At some points she helps the main group and at some points she hinders them. She may even end up joining the main group if events lead to it.

So my question is, since she isn't really entirely an antagonist nor a protagonist, is there a third category that she would fall in?

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    Chaotic neutral? – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jan 31 '17 at 22:12
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    Why do you need to categorize her? To make her less interesting? – Lew Jan 31 '17 at 22:17
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    @LaurenIpsum - Spot On! – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jan 31 '17 at 23:48
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    I believe the generic term is simply 'side character'. Unless you are looking to give this type of character (based on the traits she exhibits) a name, in which case you have some excellent answers for that. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Feb 1 '17 at 0:55
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    In literary fiction we'd probably call this a "character." :) – Ken Mohnkern Oct 23 '18 at 13:44
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In classical theory, this character is known as the trickster. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trickster They are the chaotic character. They create problem for the protagonist because they cannot be relied on, but nor are the necessarily an enemy.

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  • Well, Odin is called a trickster as well as Loki (I am about Edda). Don't think this is correct. That's more about skills. – rus9384 Oct 23 '18 at 7:56
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This is best described as a Supporting Character, because they are neither good, nor bad. They simply quote "support the story line"

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I think that the answer depends on whether this is a, or the, main character in the story.

The main character or main plot-driving character is the protagonist. Someone who opposes their goals is an antagonist--and often there is a "the antagonist" vibe, where the primary character opposing the protagonist is "the" antagonist.

Now, it's not always this neat. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, for example, arguably has two protagonists. In the 1993 The Fugitive, Tommy Lee Jones' character is arguably the antagonist, except toward the end he turns around and he's helpful. In The Great Gatsby, the main plot-driving character, Gatsby, is separate from the character that we identify with, Nick Carraway. And so on.

Nevertheless, I think that the designation of protagonist/antagonist depends on who the main plot-driving character is, whether the character you're trying to classify tends to champion or sabotage their goals, and how important that character is.

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I think this would count as Deuteragonist. Not the main character, but not a complete antagonist. The biggest example for these are sidekicks and allies, but they don’t have to be helping the protagonist always.

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I would consider them somewhat of a contagonist as described in Dramatica. The contagonist doesn't necessarily help the contagonist but they do hinder and interact with protagonist.

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    Welcome to Writing.SE! Answers here should stand on their own, without relying on external sources. Would you be able to edit in Dramatica's description of a "contragonist", as referred to in your answer? – F1Krazy Dec 4 '19 at 15:17
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Anybody who’s “poly-tagonistic” in a sense, in my opinion, is simply human. We all battle our whole lives attempting to discern right from wrong. And if you aren’t, then you’re most likely a nihilist. It’s the Tony Stark method. Anti-hero! An individual who desires to be a savior, unknowingly creates all his worst fears that he manages to physically manifest, forcing him to become,”the hero” A lot like our government.

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    Welcome to Writing.SE! Could you go into more detail about why you believe "polytagonist" is the correct term for this sort of character? The question is about the name of the concept, and your answer seems to focus more on the concept itself. – F1Krazy Apr 9 at 14:57

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