Dynamic Characters and Static Characters: What are They, Really?

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6 Min Read

Characters are, quite literally, the life of any story: they often drive the plot and progress the story. Well-written characters are one of the most important ingredients to any good story, and so it’s important to understand what makes a character well-written. 

One fundamental aspect of characterization that you need to know is the amount of change that a character undergoes for the entirety of the story. A character can be either dynamic or static. For this article, we’ll talk about dynamic characters and static characters, and how you can put well-written characters into your manuscript!

Dynamic Character: Definition

A dynamic character is a character that undergoes a significant internal change throughout the story. Dynamic characters exhibit a different personality, often contrasting with their original characteristics, at the end of the story. Of course, the internal change should be driven by the events in the story, and it could be for the better or for the worse.

Dynamic characters can be easily confused with round characters, and although there is some overlap, they are not exactly the same. Round characters are complex characters with good depth, and they do not have to change at the end of the story. However, well-written characters are often dynamic and round.

Writing a dynamic character can be challenging, but planning their development ahead of time can help a lot. LivingWriter sports the Story Elements, where you can keep notes about your dynamic characters and write down beforehand the starting and ending personalities of your characters. If you want to flesh out their character arc, Outlines and Chapters can help you organize your ideas of how you want to develop your characters before you start writing your piece.

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Keep notes about your characters and write down their personalities

Oftentimes, the main protagonist of your story is a dynamic character: over the course of the story, they undergo challenges, overcome trials, and end as a better version of what they were at the start. A great example of a dynamic protagonist is the eponymous Harry Potter of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series. Harry Potter started as a boy who was abused by his aunt’s family, and by the end of the series, he has become a brave boy who defeated the most evil wizard of his time.

Other Notable Dynamic Characters

  • Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an exemplary dynamic character, who starts out as a lonely old man who overworks his employees and ends as a better, more generous man.
  • Dumbo in Helen Aberson-Mayer and Harold Pearl’s Dumbo, the Flying Elephant overcomes his own fears and doubts and gains confidence to fly on his own without the aid of his “magic feather” at the end.

However, main characters do not always have to be dynamic. They can also be static instead.

What’s a Static Character?

A static character is a character that, unlike dynamic characters, does not undergo a significant change at the end of the story. Static characters remain largely the same through the story, and so for the most part, side characters are usually static ones. Antagonists are also usually static characters, but not always.

Despite the change that they never go through, having static characters is important for a story. Aside from having less pressure of creating an arc for their own characterization, static characters serve to support the progress of a dynamic main protagonist. Because they often don’t change, the changes to a major character are emphasized more when they stay near a static character. Similarly, static characters can also provide contrast to the story’s setting.

Static characters can be confused with flat characters, and just like with dynamic and round characters, there is a fundamental difference. Flat characters are one-dimensional characters, with very little complexity on their characterization. Although flat characters are often static, static characters can still be round characters. 

Although it’s good advice to heed that main protagonists should be dynamic, having a static main protagonist can also work. A great example is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, the world-renowned detective who has never undergone any major internal changes in any of the original stories. As long as the character is well-rounded, being static is not a problem; it may even add more to their charm instead.

Other Notable Static Characters

  • Scar in Don Ferguson’s The Lion King is a well-known static antagonist, remaining to be cunning and sly until his own demise at the end.
  • Cinderella in, well, Cinderella, is another example of a static protagonist, who, although she experienced a major external change, remained to be the same perfectly kind girl.

What Else is Different?

Dynamic characters, due to their nature of requiring an entire character arc to flesh out their internal changes, often have a larger role in the story, hence this is delegated to the main characters. Of course, this is a rule that can be broken: antagonists themselves can also be dynamic, such as Darth Vader, and protagonists can be static like Sherlock Holmes. 

Because the story spends time in developing a dynamic character, it also allows the readers to get invested in the character. A static character would have to be very well-rounded in order to keep the interest of the audience in the same way.

If They Didn’t Really Change…?

Some protagonists, such as Katniss Everdeen from the The Hunger Games trilogy, do not experience a major internal change, or at least not one that contrasts from their original personality. However, instead their original characteristics were strengthened by their journey throughout the story. These kinds of characters sit in the middling ground of dynamic and static characters. They’re also not bad characters, seeing the popularity of the trilogy. 

Wrapping It Up

Deciding whether a character changes at the end of the story is a major consideration to make; it can make or break not just the character, but also the story. LivingWriter can ease the planning phase of your manuscript with its rich features tailored specifically to help you, the writer, write more efficiently and finish that manuscript you’ve been working on.

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