What Is the Difference Between Static Characters vs Dynamic Characters?

Characters propel the story forward, but only good character development can make stories memorable, believable, and relatable. But what is character development? What’s the difference between static characters vs. dynamic characters? How do you classify your characters and give them (or not) the voice they need? 

We’ll take a closer look at these questions and more in this article. 

Character Development Meaning: What Is It? 

Character development is a process wherein you, the author, craft a detailed character profile, shaping and building every aspect that makes him human – regardless if your main character is a half-robot and half-alien. 

Character development can also mean the changes a character goes through in the story, often responding to experiences and events. This transformation process is interconnected with what we call character arc. 

For instance, in the first few chapters, the character is timid and naive, but by the end of the story, he leads a pack of misfits that has overthrown an oppressive government. 

By plotting the internal conflict, personality, depth, and motivation beforehand, you can identify which traits go out of the window, which ones stay, and which ones change. 

Expert insight: It can take years for you to craft well-rounded characters. J.K. Rowling, for instance, spent five years planning and writing the Harry Potter Series. 

Authors categorize their characters based on character type and their role in the plot or narrative. Static characters vs. dynamic characters are often the center of character development. 

Definition of Static Character: What Are Static Characters? 

picture showing a static character not changing throughout different chapters

Static characters do not change in the story. Whatever character’s trait, personality, or motivation at the start will remain constant throughout the narrative until the book ends. Even when there is conflict and significant events, a static character will remain unchanged and true to his/her steadfast convictions. 

From a reader’s point of view, having static characters may seem unnecessary and a waste of book space because they are simple, boring, and predictable. However, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that they are crucial and as interesting as dynamic characters. 

This is because static characters can: 

  • Move or change the plot of a story, especially when the dynamic character is not ready 
  • Highlight what changes the dynamic character needs to make 
  • Influence the character development of the main character
  • Ensure the story sticks to the main plot 
  • Give a compelling reason for the dynamic character to change 
  • Provide readers with a better understanding of the story 

Some examples of static characters in popular books and movies include Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series, Scar in The Lion King, and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Expert insight: Static characters are not simple. On the contrary, they are complex characters shaped by experiences and backstories. Some books have multiple static characters – that’s how impactful they are for the plotline! 

What Are the Characteristics of a Static Character?  

The characteristics of static characters include a steadfast conviction and, of course, having the same personality and traits from beginning to end. Keep in mind that static characters are different from flat characters, with the latter mostly given to minor characters that are one-dimensional and without depth.

Examples of a Static Character

Static characters are prevalent in literature, pop culture, and films. Here are examples of a static character: 

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

Atticus Finch is an excellent example of a static character. His moral compass, beliefs, and outlook are unchanged throughout the story. Meanwhile, his daughters, Jem and Scout, are considered dynamic characters because they ultimately change their perspectives at the end of the story. 

2. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet, Romeo begins as a loyal yet capricious, impulsive character, traits that he still displays until the very end. After learning about Juliet’s “death,” his immediate resolution is to kill himself. 

3. Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling 

From start to finish, the second most featured wizard, Bellatrix Lestrange, retains her unpredictable, cruel, and evil ways throughout the books. 

4. James Bond  

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, all 007 agents have the same charming yet lethal trait. The latest James Bond films also have backstories to further the story. 

5. Sherlock Holmes  

You’ll also find static characters in crime and mysteries. One good example is Sherlock Holmes. Throughout different investigations, Holmes does not go through any significant internal changes. As a matter of fact, he maintains his confidence and witty personality! 

6. Homer Simpson 

Homer Simpsons, the patriarch in The Simpsons, remains unchanged even after 32 seasons. He is still clumsy, lazy, ignorant, and, of course, his infamous anger toward his hooligan son, Bart. 

Why Do Authors Use a Static Character?

Having static characters can help the plot move forward and encourage other characters (often the protagonist) to change. Here are some reasons why authors use a static character: 

  • Builds Contrast: You can immediately tell how much character development was put into the main character if you put a static character next to a dynamic character. Without contrast (or the static character) in place, it’s harder for your readers to tell characters apart. 
  • Maintain Focus: Another great thing about having static characters is that they also push story development. Just imagine having dynamic characters only; The plotline will be cluttered! 
  • Limited Time to Show Development: If you have multiple minor characters, making them static characters allows you to focus on the plotline and the main characters. 
  • Show Complexity of Humans: The reality is we react differently to conflicts and situations. And by having static characters, you highlight those complexities and, most importantly, show that some have unalterable virtues. 

How to Write a Static Character

It may seem easier to write static characters, but you have to remember that they remain consistent and do not have a character arc. So, it’s going to be a bit harder to highlight them in the story and even direct the reader’s attention. Here are some tips when writing static characters: 

  • Engaging backstory: Think about what made the static character who he is. Did he go through a significant change that influenced his strong personality now? Was there a point in time that he was kind? What made him change?  
  • Unique personality: Most static characters have stereotypical personalities, but that doesn’t mean you should follow suit. Take a look at Sherlock Holmes. A detective is usually serious, but Holmes is the opposite. He is quirky, witty, and funny!
  • Look for an ultimate goal: If a static character is unfazed by the events surrounding him, you must think of a compelling reason as to why. Does he have a purpose? If so, what is it? 

Definition of Dynamic Character: What Are Dynamic Characters?

illustration showing how dynamic characters change over the course of the story.

Dynamic characters go through internal changes in the story. They often go through these changes in response to a conflict, event, or a change in their circumstances. The change, however, is gradual, often spread out throughout the course of the story. 

Let’s analyze Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. In the beginning, he was a selfish and miserable character with little empathy towards the poor, his employees, and even his family. After a visit from the three ghosts, he becomes a kinder and giving person. 

Expert insight: Dynamic characters are not only reserved for major characters; you can also give them to minor characters and even the antagonist.  

What Are the Characteristics of a Dynamic Character?  

Dynamic characters respond to conflict or events by changing their traits or virtue. However, how they respond can be negative or positive. For instance, in Star Wars, Anakin went through different internal changes, and, unfortunately, he responded negatively to them and ultimately became the Sith Lord. 

Examples of a Dynamic Character

Like static characters, dynamic characters are prevalent in non-fiction novels regardless of the genre. Here are some well-known dynamic characters in literature: 

1. Anakin Skywalker

As mentioned earlier, dynamic characters do not always respond positively to change. Anakin Skywalker, or Darth Vader, was once a heroic Jedi, but he joined the dark side to be the Sith Lord due to his circumstances. 

2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling 

Harry Potter is also a dynamic character. He started as a regular boy, but he later discovered that he is a wizard and must defeat Voldemort. Another dynamic character in the series is Neville Longbottom, who starts as a shy, awkward, and cowardly student. As the story unfolds and the influence of his peers, he becomes a courageous young man, not hesitating to kill Voldemort’s last Horcrux, Nagini.   

3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

Many coming out of age, young adult novels have dynamic characters, and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is no exception. Katniss Everdeen, the story’s protagonist, was only concerned with feeding her family when her father died. But when she volunteered to take her sister’s place in the annual Hunger Games, her circumstances led her to become the Mockingjay of the rebellion and be the beacon of hope throughout the Districts. 

Why Do Authors Use a Dynamic Character? 

Authors use dynamic characters to make the story believable and relatable to readers. Here are compelling reasons you should have dynamic characters in your book: 

  • Give characters depth: It lets readers inside the mind and thought process of characters. Moreover, undergoing significant changes creates more depth and complexity for your characters. 
  • Make a story realistic and relatable: Over the course of our lives, we change either for the worst or better. It’s an inevitable fact even in books. 
  • Moves a plot forward: Having dynamic characters does not make your book interesting and relatable; they can push the direction of your story. The storyline can immediately become dull, repetitive, and stagnant without their changes.

How to Write a Dynamic Character

Writing a dynamic character also requires solid character development. Here are some tips to guide you on the right track: 

  • Always have a history or backstory: It’s hard to understand a character’s outlook or view in life without introducing the events or people that shaped his personality and traits. Moreover, the more you know your character, it will be easier for you to plot or determine how he responds to change. 
  • Give him flaws: No character is perfect. In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen’s love for her sister put her in a life or death situation. Remember, authors use dynamic characters to make the story believable! Don’t make the faults irreparable, though, or else you’re dynamic character will become static. 
  • Conflict and more conflict: Dynamic characters can’t change if no conflict exists. And, yes, it’s always easier adding circumstances outside of their control, but a character who has created conflict and resolved it themselves is far more satisfying to read. 

What Is the Difference Between a Dynamic Character and a Static Character?

As mentioned earlier, the difference between a dynamic character and a static character is that static characters have the same personality traits from the beginning of the story until the end. Dynamic characters are the complete opposite. Instead, the character’s traits and perspective change as the story progresses, often shaped by conflict, experience, and influence from other characters. 

Tip: Most authors have their protagonists with dynamic characterization, and static is for the antagonists. However, that’s not always the case. For example, Sherlock Holmes, the protagonist in Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime fiction book series, is a static character. 

Dynamic Characters vs Static Characters: Which One Is for You? 

Deciding between dynamic characters vs. static characters ultimately boils down to your novel’s storyline and your main character’s traits. Just remember that the difference between dynamic characters vs. static characters is character development; the latter is stagnant and has an unchanging nature, while the former goes through a significant life transition. 

If neither of these two types of characters is suitable for your book, you can also have round characters or flat characters. Once you have your characters and the initial draft of the manuscript, head on over to our guide about how to get a book published.

Happy Book Writing!

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