This week’s video points out the pitfalls of characters who fall short of dynamism and reveals two ways to diagnose how you’re doing with your character.
Video Transcript: When you think of a good character what words come to mind? How about dynamic? Dynamic characters are the stuff of literary legend. But, at the other end of the spectrum, we have the static characters, and—except in instances in which the author purposefully leaves the character unyielding and unchanged over the course of the book to prove a point—these are usually the most forgettable and boring characters of the lot. Fortunately for us authors who want to avoid this pitfall, there are two surefire symptoms we can look for to diagnose whether or not our characters are falling prey to the static syndrome.
The first symptom of a static character is his lack of personal connection to the plot. If he can walk away from the conflict, at any point, without suffering significant ramifications, you can bet he doesn’t have enough at stake. The whole story revolves around your protagonist. Without him, there shouldn’t be a story. So if you find your main character isn’t embroiled deeply enough within the central conflict, you either need to up the stakes for him personally—or find a different protagonist who already has plenty at stake. In short, the protagonist’s involvement in the plot must matter to him as a person, preferably on both a physical and spiritual level.
The second symptom is the lack of change within your character over the course of a story. To be compelling, protagonists need to show a defined character arc. At the end of the story, they shouldn’t be the same person they were at the beginning. How is this story changing him? What is he learning? How is he growing? If these questions don’t have solid answers that define your plot, your character is probably static—and, as a result, far less interesting or relatable than readers would like. So keep your eyes open for these two symptoms, and stop static cling before it begins.
Tell me your opinion: Does your main character have any static tendencies?
Related Posts: Up the Stakes to Grab Readers
Change Is Key to Powerful Character Arcs
Plot vs. Character: Which Is More Important?
Story by K.M. Weiland