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Dynamic Characters vs. Static Characters: Making Them Work Together

May 31, 2022 (Last Updated June 20, 2022)

Marcy G.

When writing a book, every author strives to develop a compelling story that captivates their readers from cover to cover. And though there are many moving parts when it comes to translating those thoughts into a tangible, readable reality, one of the most fundamental components is none other than the characters themselves.

 

Overall, characters are the heartbeat of a story - the cornerstone that fuels suspense, provides unique perspectives, and fosters conflict/resolutions. But what truly separates an excellent book/author from the pack is the ability to understand the principles of dynamic characters versus static characters and using that to bring literary characters to life.

 

Dynamic Characters: Definition and Examples

Dynamic characters are ones that undergo significant change as the storyline progresses. Perhaps they feel and act one way in the beginning, then over time evolve into something different that contradicts their original characteristics (for better or for worse). Sometimes confused with round characters, which are characters that do have depth, but do not necessarily change; dynamic characters are often the protagonists that feature relatable characterization and internal/external change. These are your characters who have flaws, face life-altering conflicts, have preferences, and are subject to change in surprising ways. In short, any character that is complex by nature, learns lessons, and makes changes in their foundation as a result of various plot twists is identified as a dynamic character.

 

Examples of Dynamic Characters

 

ü  Anakin Skywalker

ü  Ebenezer Scrooge

ü  Neville Longbottom

ü  Elizabeth Bennet

ü  Scout Finch

 

Static Characters: Definition and Examples

Unlike a dynamic character, a static character is one that does not change over the course of the entire storyline; they do not undergo any significant change and remain relatively the same from start to finish. Because of that, these are the type of characters that are not usually protagonists and more so the side characters that help propel the plot along. Keep in mind that static characters are not the same as flat characters. ‘Flat characters’ is a category that portrays no emotion, complexity, or depth. Though flat characters can be static, that does not mean static characters cannot be round ones as well.

 

Examples of Static Characters

 

ü  Captain Hook

ü  Sherlock Holmes

ü  Dumbledore and Voldemort

ü  Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred

ü  Romeo Montague 

 

How Do They Work Together?

In a story, the dynamic characters are generally the most desirable ones for readers as they are designed to be relatable, interesting, surprising, and everything else in between. They essentially drive the story and keep readers on their toes as they manifest throughout. Now, dynamic characters may usually have the spotlight, juxtaposing them with well crafted, intriguing static characters is a highly effective tool for authors no matter the plot.

 

In general, static characters are not the story drivers, but they are important because they emphasize the changes dynamic characters make. In addition, they help readers move across the plot even when the dynamic character can’t yet or is deep in a conflict. In the end, a story with only dynamic characters can quickly turn unwieldy, and static characters can help keep the story tight and focused without adding unnecessary subplots. Even more, they can act in many active agent roles, especially ones that support the protagonist or often as foils to who the protagonist is compared to – resulting in much more depth, balance, realness, and relatability towards the dynamic character(s) that keeps readers locked in.

 

Summary – A Perfect Blend of Change and No Change

As an author writing a book, don’t think of it as dynamic characters vs. static characters; it should be seen more as dynamic characters AND static characters. Because the fact of the matter is, both categories are vital parts of a storyline. When done mindfully, they are able to accentuate each other’s views and genuinely help readers seamlessly navigate through the story using a harmonic blend of change and no change references.

 

In summary, dynamic characters and static characters are opposites. But in the essence of writing a book, these opposites can very much attract; allowing authors to distinguish characters and helping readers feel that character’s persona. All in all, understanding this connection (and applying it) is key to not just enhancing reader attraction, but ultimately creating a properly balanced story with characters that ascend in the most satisfying way.

 

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