A long while back I wrote an article titled: Seven Common Character Types (link: http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/common.html). It is one that, over the years, has drawn the most interest, especially from public schools around the country. They often request permission for use, or ask for additional examples. In fact, the Dueling Ogres requested I compose a new article sourcing the old.
That brought a notion to mind: As an author I feel it is important to note that protagonists don’t need to be a dynamic character. In some instances, a static character fills the slot just fine.
For clarification here are a couple of definitions:
Static Character: a character that remains primarily the same throughout the story or novel. Events in the story do not alter a static character’s outlook, personality, motivation, perception, habits, etc. For example, Jack, in Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, began participating in the October Full Moon Ceremonies for centuries as a closer. Despite circumstances, he and his faithful hound, Snuff, stick to that course, no matter the risks or costs, or even friendships.
Dynamic Character: a character that changes during the course of a story or novel. The change in outlook or character is permanent. Sometimes a dynamic character is called a developing character. Think Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
I will say that dynamic characters are more common, and are almost a requirement for stories that are largely character-driven, and most of my main characters are dynamic, to one extent or another, except for Security Specialist Keesay from the Crax War Chronicles. Although he adjust tactics based upon circumstances, his attitude and beliefs remain largely unchanged. One might note, in Relic Hunted (the second novel in the series), he attempted to alter his reactions and attitude, and found less than satisfactory results. Needless to say, he returned to his ‘tried and true.’
A reader might ask: How can that be interesting? My answer is: With changing circumstances (plot events), how does that static character maneuver through or weather the events? What are the consequences?
Think movies, westerns for example. John Wayne in Big Jake (and in pretty much every one of his movies) he remains the same stoic hero-type, with a personal code and set of morals. He either prevails, or the situation breaks his character. It’s the others that accompany him through the tale that are dynamic (do the changing). What about Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies?
Even the novel Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry has two protagonists that are static. Captain Call remains his hard, brittle self to the end, even to the point of denying recognition of his son. And Augustus McCrae, is fun-loving while carrying a streak of pride. In the end, that causes him to choose death from blood poisoning rather than amputation of his leg. (The novel was turned into an excellent mini-series, by the way).
[Editor’s note: See bottom of page for link to series.]
Even Steinbeck’s classic novel, Of Mice and Men, is stocked with static characters, especially Lenny and George. Their inability to change from who they are bars the pair (and their friends Candy and Crooks) from succeeding and saving money, and buying that dreamed-of plot of land for themselves.
That leads me to an interesting twist with my new LitRPG series, Monsters, Maces and Magic. In that series, the five main characters are transported into an RPG (Role Playing Game) similar to Dungeons & Dragons, in the form of the characters they rolled up.
One of the struggles, especially for Glenn (transformed into the gnome healer, Jax) is his effort to remain ‘static’ or ‘himself’ and not become Jax, despite internal and external pressures the game world exerts (based upon events and the Monsters, Maces and Magic’s game rules and rigid descriptions).
Did I convince you? That dynamic characters aren’t required for an interesting read? If I did, or even if you might be unsure, check out A Night in the Lonesome October, Lonesome Dove, or Of Mice and Men.
Rock House and Cavern are his co-authored action adventure novellas (with David Wood), and Genre Shotgun is his short story collection, that includes SF, mystery, horror/suspense and inspirational tales.
His post-apocalyptic fantasy series, First Civilization’s Legacy, includes Flank Hawk, Blood Sword and Soul Forge.
Terry’s newest series (Fantasy/LitRPG) Monsters, Maces and Magic includes Outpost, with Betrayal slated for release in April of 2018. He is currently working on Relic Shield, the third novel in the Crax War Chronicles.
To contact Terry or to learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at www.ervin-author.com and his blog, Up Around the Corner.