Flat, round, static, dynamic: these are all words describing character types in literature. But what do they mean? Flat and round characters easily compare and contrast with each other. In the simplest terms, a flat character exhibits one trait while a round character exudes many traits, even some that conflict with each other.
On the other hand, the terms “static” and “dynamic” refer to the character’s development. In short, a static character does not undergo any significant internal change during the story; a dynamic character evolves through conflict. Thus, you could write about a flat dynamic character, a round static character, etc.
Building a Strong Static Character
Static characters tend to get a bad rap in literature – maybe it’s the phonetic semblance between static and stagnant. In reality, static characters are anything but dull. Strong static characters make it easy for readers to fall for them.
By nature, static characters:
- Do not undergo internal change during the story
- May be naturally appealing (don’t need to change)
- Are typically heroic, gifted, strong, or quirky
Sherlock Holmes is static character. He is intelligent, observant, and mysterious; readers don’t need to see him develop to enjoy his persona.
Another classic example is Tom Sawyer. Tom is quirky, rebellious, and interesting. He necessitates little internal change because the story revolves around the events in his life, not character transformation.
Static characters can also provide a foundation for your protagonist, especially if the protagonist is unpredictable or going through an internal transformation. When paired with a dynamic protagonist, static side characters provide the anchor readers need to gauge the protagonist’s metamorphosis.
How to Create an Effective Dynamic Character
Dynamic characters are flawed. Protagonists lend themselves to the dynamic character type because they require emotional investment from the audience.
Ebenezer Scrooge is a classic example.
At the beginning of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge finds Christmas disdainful; by the end of the story, he embraces it. Keep these factors in mind when you build a dynamic character:
- What is your character like at the beginning of the story?
- How do readers want him to change?
- What does he become at the end of the story?
- What is the catalyst for this change?
- How will his transformation influence the story?
When faced with conflict, the dynamic character begins to change, giving readers to opportunity to watch him grow. Because they are imperfect, dynamic characters are often relatable and interesting, creating a powerful vehicle for conflict in your story.
As their name implies, dynamic characters can be quite complex. In addition to their weaknesses, dynamic characters involve backstory. What made your protagonist the way he is? Who are his enemies? Most of your character’s life is irrelevant, but these issues and others like them will influence his persona and development.