Static vs. Dynamic Characters

 

Hi Jim,

I’ve been following your blog for a little while now and was hoping I could get some advice from you. I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of character you like more, a dynamic or static character. I’m creating one right now for my story and am having trouble coming up with ideas.

Thanks,
Thomas


Hi Thomas,

I’m afraid you’ve got me there because both types have their advantages and can hit the various pitfalls. Whether or not a character is good varies greatly and inevitably depends on how they’re used, portrayed, and what circumstances you place them in.

Let’s start with the static character. Arguably, this is the harder one to get right. I know a lot of people say that static characters are a lot more simplistic, and that’s true. However, this does not mean that they are easier to write. Simplistic characters can turn readers off very easily, especially if they’re center stage. Usually, most people advise against making them center stage unless they’re just a simple villain used as an adversary when a writer is too busy with hero development to bother with their backstory. Which, don’t get me wrong, may sound lazy, but can actually be done well…

The best way I’ve seen to do a main static character right is to start the character off with very little detail. The readers are likely going to hate him/her early on and that’s fine. When I wrote Mary Kelly, I fully expected that she’d be hated and actually wanted it that way.

Over the rest of the story, you find out more and more about why that character is the way he or she is. Suddenly your reader’s view of them changes as they begin to be able to empathize with him/her. In other words… the character doesn’t change, but the audience’s attitude towards the character does. In essence, the character’s portrayal is what becomes dynamic over time, but the character itself remains static.

So what about a dynamic character? You also have to be careful here. Change doesn’t take place overnight… unless you’re Anakin Skywalker…

However, even for all the criticism he received, he still had the seeds of doubt planted in him by Palpatine over the years, we simply didn’t see it. This is where we run into problems with dynamic characters. Too often, they change personality traits, opinions, and long-held beliefs at the drop of a nail. It’s unrealistic and hard to really empathize with a character who does this. The development of this kind of character really needs to take place over time. It may even take until the end of your book for them to fully embrace the dynamics of their personality.

On the other side, people do tend to gravitate much easier to a character that can change and become more over time.

So in the end, it really depends on you and your perceived level of skill with character creation. Don’t start writing until you’ve got your characters fleshed out. That’s the best advice I can give you. I know some people will just start with a couple of leads who are blank slates and then build them using the outside stimulus to work at character development, but doing so can very easily lead to disaster. Without having a personality pre-created, your character can do things that may make sense to you, but going back later will seem very out of character. This is something an audience will pick up on and typically reject.

Readers, what do you think? Which character is the stronger of the two? Let me know down in the comments.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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