Character: D is for Dynamic

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

No tornadoes yesterday, at least not here.  But it’s now cold again.  I don’t know about you, but I’m thoroughly sick of it.  It’s cold in my house and it’s hard to type.  What I really want right now is a nap (thanks, comfy blanket!), but I’ll do the best I can.

D is for dynamic.

A dynamic character is one who changes over the course of the narrative.  Does he learn anything?  Do the events of the story alter his perceptions in any way?  Does he do things he would not have done at the beginning, for whatever reason?  Is there growth?

Unlike static characters, who stay the same throughout a story, the inner personalities, thought patterns, and outward behavior of dynamic characters will alter as the events unfold.  The change can be abrupt or it can be a slow process, a struggle through the entire story arc.  It doesn’t have to be a positive change either.  The character can fall apart completely and then either stay that way, die, or hit bottom and come back up.

Whatever you do with him, it must make sense within the narrative.  People don’t alter their entire worldview for minor things.  You can’t have your character show signs of extreme trauma when he’s merely stubbed a toe.

“Finding out your wife has an enormous and dangerous secret vs. tripping on the kerb?  Well, bollocks; I don’t know which one’s worse.” 

“Finding out your wife has an enormous and dangerous secret vs. tripping on the kerb?  Well, bollocks; I don’t know which one’s worse.”

Image:  buddy2blogger.blogspot.com

You must also avoid derailing the character; that is, don’t make him do things he would never do based on how you showed him earlier.  If he’s doing something because the story demands it, then it better be an action he could and would reasonably be capable of performing.  Keep your evil characters evil.  Don’t make a menacing villain suddenly turn into a ginormous teddy bear.

SPOILER! 

This happened in The Dark Knight Rises, when Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter revealed her childhood association with Bane, who then made puppy eyes at her like a nanny on crack.  All the air went out of him at that point, and he ceased to be a frightening and credible threat and just became stupid.  TV Tropes calls this badass decay.  Don’t do it; it’s annoying.

OKAY, SPOILER OVER.

Sorry, I’m on the free version of WordPress and it won’t let me blank out spoilers (that I’m aware of).

Don’t make the cute little girl suddenly pick up a machine gun and blow everybody away, unless you’ve established a clue earlier that she either might know how to use it or can learn really quickly.  Most small children can’t handle automatic weapons.

I have my doubts about these two.

I have my doubts about these two.

Image:  Phaitoon/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dynamic characters will move your story along.  As they evolve, their actions and reactions will initiate changes from other characters.  When Samwise Gamgee leaves the Shire with Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, he’s just a simple gardener and Frodo’s manservant.  By the time they reach Mount Doom, he has ridden in a boat, fought orcs, and killed the horrific giant spider Shelob.  Frodo’s deterioration and steadily decreasing ability to even care for himself brings out fortitude in Sam that he never knew he had.

Come on, say it with him; you know you want to.

Image:  xoyannie.com

The best protagonists don’t stay the same through a story.  Have fun putting your characters through their paces.  Give them things to do that challenge them.  We should all live this way in real life, too, because it keeps us fresh.

 

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