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 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 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

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.

  • 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

This is best described as a Supporting Character, because they are neither good, nor bad. They simply quote "support the story line"


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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