There are many facets to writing characters in a story. I like to make mine as layered and real as possible and use charts and lists to ensure I know who they are from their quirks right up to major character flaws that define them.
A dynamic character is one that changes over time. They start off one way then learn and grow as the story or stories progress. Sometimes this happens by design and sometimes it happens out of creative circumstance. This doesn’t always mean for the better. A character can rise up from the ashes or descend blindly to the depths of hell. There is a caution here, having a character spontaneously change is frustrating and weird. There must be foreshadow, cause and effect put into play. If Scott went crazy for no reason and just snapped it would be weird for the reader. Unless I’m going for shock value. Even then I would have foreshadowed it a little.
On the flip side of a dynamic character are static ones. The static character remains steady. They don’t grow and develop or crash and burn. They simply are there and stay that way. Most often a static character is on the side or comes around infrequently. I’ve noticed the “advice givers” or wisest of characters are often static. they don’t have a journey to make they’ve already been there and done that.
Examples of typical stationary characters:
Best friends with no strife in their life
Co-workers not tied to the story
The guy selling hot-dogs on the corner
The advice giving barista
Doctors and or nurses
Basically anyone in a dynamic character’s life that are not directly a part of it. There have been times when a static character is pulled into the story and becomes dynamic, but I choose them carefully and try to replace them with another static character. I’ve also had characters that are constantly around the most dynamic and still stay the same. Not everyone needs to grow and evolve or fail and de-evolve.
A static or background character runs the danger of becoming inert. They can easily have an impact on the story, good or bad. They can easily help the dynamic’s of the story move along their path. A static character isn’t a one-off appearance. They are there more than once, often a support system of sorts. They should not always be dull or invisible. I call this the cardboard cut-out character. The one that is there but not. The easiest way to give them some colour is to give them humor or make them the ‘middle-man’.
Confusing growth with change is easy to do. Circumstances can change for a static character, they can react/act within that change and still remain static. Dale is a character that hasn’t grown, rather his circumstances have changed and he adapts within his set parameters that I created. He is still the same and hasn’t become more or less of a hero, nor has he become or more or less of a villain. Scott has changed for the bad. He is slipping into an old dark shoe that has nothing to do with this story but affects his personality. This is known as back-story. His change was foreshadowed with actions, expression and words.
My advice about Static vs. Dynamic characters
We spend a lot of time focused on the Dynamic characters. I think it’s important to give Static ones depth too. Give them a history, purpose, range of emotion and response. They don’t need to learn, but they shouldn’t be cardboard cut-outs either.
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