Static Characters vs. Dynamic Characters: How To Use Both

Static characters do not change over the course of a story. Readers are almost always more invested in dynamic characters who exhibit well-developed character development, but interesting static characters are also crucial in good storytelling.

As a rule (with few exceptions), your protagonist should be a dynamic character with satisfying characterization and relatable internal change.

However, secondary characters, foils, minor characters, and antagonists can all make for great static characters. Whether it’s in a novel, poem, short story, movie, or song, static character archetypes serve an essential purpose and can improve an overall narrative in various ways.

What is a static character example? An example of a static character that most everyone knows is Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.

Writers should use dynamic characters to show how change is good or bad in relation to your central themes. On the other hand, static characters can show how remaining the same is good or bad in relation to your central themes.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. What a static character is
  2. Static character vs. dynamic character
  3. Round character vs. flat character
  4. How to write interesting static characters
  5. Examples of static characters from literature

What is a static character?

A static character is a character in a story that does not undergo any significant changes throughout the course of the story. The static character may be a well-developed character but does not experience a meaningful character arc.

A static character’s role can be to progress the plot or foil the dynamic main character.

Static characters may sound boring at first, but they are often necessary to develop the major characters. (Think about the “You’ve changed!” speech from every movie ever.)

The opposite of a static character is a dynamic character, who does undergo meaningful change, AKA a character arc. (Prince Zuko, anyone?)

Static vs. dynamic is a different dichotomy than round vs. flat.

  • Static vs. dynamic refers to whether or not a character changed throughout the story.
  • Round vs. flat refers to whether a character has deep, layered characteristics.

These literary terms help authors distinguish their characters and properly balance their stories in the most satisfying way.

What are the 4 types of characters?

  1. Static characters are characters who never change during a story.
  2. Dynamic characters are characters who go through an inner change within a story.
  3. Flat characters are underdeveloped, one-dimensional characters without a layered backstory, motivations, or internal conflicts.
  4. Round characters are characters with well-developed strengths, weaknesses, goals, and relatable flaws.

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How to Write Interesting Static Characters

To write interesting static characters, make them round characters that effectively foil the main character — bonus points for an unchanging tragic flaw that evokes strong emotion in your reader.

What is a round and static character? Whereas flat characters aren’t layered or well-developed, a round and static character has a compelling backstory, relatable goals and flaws, and fascinating character traits — all while staying the same. A static character doesn’t have to be a flat character.

One of the most effective ways to write static characters is for their lack of dynamic change to evoke a tragic sadness in the reader.

Suppose your static character exhibits traits that your main character shares initially but not at the end of the story. In that case, your static character ends up being a very effective signpost to display how your protagonist has changed.

5 Tips on How to Write Static Characters

  1. Write a round static character — complete with backstory, goals, and relatable flaws.
  2. Give the static character a tragic flaw. When they don’t change, it should lead to their downfall. This is a tragic but satisfying experience for readers.
  3. Make your static characters vital to the progression of the plot.
  4. Copy personality traits from your dynamic characters to your static characters. Then, when the dynamic character changes and the static character doesn’t, the arc is most effective for your audience.
  5. Have another character try to change your static character, but fail. The offer and rejection of change give the static character’s unchanging personality a sense of purpose and confidence.

5 Tips on How to Write Dynamic Characters

  1. List out your dynamic character’s character traits at the beginning of the story. Then write out what new characteristics they will have by the end of the story.
  2. Connect the change in your dynamic character with the central themes of your story.
  3. Make your dynamic character responsible for the central conflict. This means they will change with the conflict. It’s easy to write your main character as a victim, but there is more growth to be had if they must deal with the responsibility of initiating the conflict.
  4. Give any dynamic character a foil to compare against throughout the story.
  5. Don’t feel like you have to make every dynamic character a round character. There are plenty of flat dynamic characters that perfectly serve their story.

15 Examples of Static Characters

Here are some great examples of static characters in literature:

  • Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes stories
  • Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Romeo Montague in Romeo and Juliet
  • Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
  • Joe the blacksmith in Dickens’s Great Expectations
  • Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice
  • Dumbledore and Voldemort in the Harry Potter series

Examples of static characters from movies:

  • Shrek from the Shrek series
  • Scar from The Lion King
  • Indiana Jones from the Indiana Jones series
  • James Bond from the James Bond series
  • Yoda from the Star Wars series
  • Evil Stepmother from Cinderella

Will you use static and dynamic characters in your book?

Just writing about well-written static characters made me wanna write a whole book of them!

Of course, the most satisfying thing for readers is dynamic characters with relatable, interesting character arcs. However, juxtaposing them with intriguing static characters is a very effective tool for authors.

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