12/19/12

Mastering the Static Character: the difference between static/dynamic and uncharacteristic/characteristic

Mastering the Static Character

Last Sunday was a writing prompt on my other blog about choosing stereotypical or stock characters and revealing characteristics that were not typical of those stereotypes.

Ironically, the day afterwards I did something very uncharacteristic for me: I wore a dress to work. It wasn't just a skort, a skirt or any other hybrid, it was a well and true dress.

I should also add here that I don't mind wearing skirts in the summer for example when it's warm, but I hate doing so in the winter as it requires leggings, tights or nylons to keep the legs a tad bit warmer. I hate tights. Really, really, hate tights. Problem is this. The legs always fit but for some reason, even if I buy the biggest set of tights possible, the waist on them are always too small to get around my hips.

When I was very early pregnant, I bought a pair of pregnant tights in a size too big, and at the moment of truth-they didn't fit. It's always a horrible feeling.

Last week, I wore a pair of tights and dress, and the tights fit! It left me wondering about characterization and the times where characters can be a set (static) character defined by who they are and the role they play, or are often changing (dynamic) characters who make decisions based on the past that has been established about them.

In review of some of my favourite books, series and short stories I have noticed a trend. The static characters are those that are required to be reliable throughout the story. Here's the rub-a character that the reader relies on to be static can change through the story to become an antagonist.

If you're writing and require some extra conflict in your story, this might be just the place to start. Take a look at the characters you have in your story and find out if there's some action they could take that would be surprising but not necessarily out of character.

Example: 


Perhaps our protagonist in an office setting relies on the gal who always brings coffee in, she's decaffeinated, having a bad Friday and is hoping that her day will get better when she drinks her usual Friday morning joe. That morning, however the "static"-ish character is in a great mood. She's been proposed to the night before and thus doesn't bring in the usual coffee because she forgets in the excitement. In addition to forgetting the coffee, she's having a good day, which rubs our hypothetical protagonist the wrong way.

Has the static character done anything "uncharacteristic?" No, her generous and upbeat nature -obvious because she brings coffee into the office every Friday morning continues, but her actions change because of a real and possible event in her life. In addition, these changes create conflict in our protagonist's story. Does she become jealous, forgive the lapse in coffee, or is it the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back on this particular day?

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