Tag Archives: dynamic

Static versus Round

Every storytelling aspect can be applied to real life, in different ways. Tropes, climax, conflict, heroes and anti-heroes, and, most of all, round (or dynamic) and static characters.

I found this particularly true for the round and static character explanation over the past several months, but it got more into the dynamics and elements of storytelling itself with some fundamental things changing or being different than normal.

Static characters are not typically in the forefront of the story, for example. Every main character I’ve read has had a change of heart or a change of life and has handled it differently in the end than they would have in the beginning. They are round, and called such for the change, the fact that they are always curving and turning when you zoom in on the lines.

I digress, the fact is that there is a shift in view or perspective for those dynamic characters, they learn and in turn their actions change.

Recently, though, I realized that a friend of mine hadn’t changed much or at all, and her perspective, her reactions, her general disposition had all remained the same. When asked a question lately that she’d been asked years ago, her answer was the same.

People who are immovable in many ways are usually the secondary or tertiary characters, or in the background somewhere. They matter less because the main storyline relies on a lot of change, it relies on conflict creating a different view, it’s why you read the story in the first place, to see how something progresses. The definition of progress is ‘movement to a goal or further to a higher stage.’ How do you get there if your sights are in the same place?

Could a story technically still survive with a static character in the front? It becomes more about their struggles and their daily life and how they handle it. Sure, because you’re highlighting the way of life, there’s a message in there somewhere.

Then again, if that’s all you wrote, wouldn’t your writing become very limited?

Someone who is not open to learning or change is stifling the ability to become a better version of themselves. I mean those who outright refuse.

There is a story to be told there, but, as the name suggests, dynamic characters have a lot more possibilities.

I have to admit that I’ve never met someone so stubborn and unwilling to change, someone so against the idea. In 25 years, I’ve met one or two who don’t fully grasp the concept of learning and being shaped by ideas and the world around them. They understand it plenty, but they refuse to let it take hold.

The thought had me wondering about main characters, about stories and novels, and how many of the main characters don’t budge, don’t change or get shaped by the way their world moves. What kind of story does a character like that make for?

In contrast, a lot of my characters tend to be like me in that they thirst for knowledge. Some, like secondary or tertiary characters, aren’t given that much dimension, so they remain static. So there’s a difference there between refusal and not being given the chance.

Usually, how you hear about static characters is by the fact that they aren’t the ones the story’s changing is directed at. They aren’t going through conflict. They simply look on from the sidelines. They are a stationary piece of the puzzle themselves.

Which reminds me of Welcome to Nightvale’s deep quote from the other day: “Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.

Whether it’s a story you’re writing or your own story, static and dynamic characters are everywhere, and each have a place. Just as it is in what we write, our life has lessons for us, if we choose to see it that way. We are what the story makes us, if we’re willing to accept that.

What kind of character will you be?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Dare/Prompt: Inked Up

One of the fun things I always forget about that I can add for characters adds to a more alternative look. Tattoos, piercings, dyed hair.

Simple as they are, they can help round the character out, while giving something fun or exciting to look at from another character’s standpoint. Some, who aren’t as enamored with these sorts of things, may not think of them so much. Others may not have many characters without them.

Putting marks on a character that’s well established already is only tricky if you pass it off as them having it for long enough that it coincides with other works you’ve written.  Giving them new ink or piercings, or glasses, or any other small, little things that help aid the appearance, however, can do a lot to sway them in one direction or another, personality wise, or establish their attitude or dynamic better, in some ways.

The prompt/dare is this: Look back on all of your characters and really think about which ones have what. Consider if these things dictate the character, or the other way around. If you don’t have characters with a tattoo, or someone who likes to dye their hair, or has piercings that aren’t in their ears, make one, with the conscious decision on whether the personal affects help define the character, or the other way around.

Don’t be afraid to go overboard, go with what feels right for the character. Write what’s right, essentially. 😉

– The Novice Wordsmith

Long Lost

One of the biggest go-to plot twists (and tropes) has been the “long-lost” sibling, parent, friend, etc. Your writing is going well, and then you stop and you wonder about what could spice things up, and all of a sudden you’re staring at the computer screen or notebook with wide eyes and your jaw dropped open, because having someone be introduced into their life that they should have known since the beginning is such a hard throw for anyone.

Some of these are easier than others depending on where you are in your story, and what kind of holes you’ve left open. Think about it before you jump though; what feels right for the character and their life? Another thing to consider is the execution of this. How are you going to introduce it, and does it help you do something else?

As an example: does the feel of the character having a long lost sibling make up for something else in their life and development, or do you feel like you should go back and write them as the youngest/oldest/middle of a group of children instead of alone?

Of course there’s another way to go about this as well: instead of a random interjection, make the person’s absence a conscious part of the hero’s life. The long lost brother who’s been missing or cut them out of his life for so long, who turns up unannounced one day.  Or the friend thought dead who gets spotted at a crime scene. Or, neither of them show up just yet; they lurk in the outskirts of the novel until you’re ready to bring them in, or you decide you didn’t want and or need them after all.

Some plot holes may support these newly thought characters, though, the ones who jump in at you at the last second and turn the story on its head. The ones who grin at you and wave and show you something that could work rather well.

Others may not work out at all.

The Long Lost ______ is an interesting dynamic, when you look at it: you’re putting someone in front of your hero who should have been in their life all along, thus throwing them for a loop and making them come up with countless questions. Confusion. Anger. Upset. Betrayal. In some cases, embarrassment.

It’s a quick way to spice things up, but it can also change the tone of the story, so be careful how you use it. Find what degree of focus you want to give it, or not give it, and run with it. The phrase is “the more the merrier” for a reason, right? 😉

-The Novice Wordsmith

Putting your Hero Through Their Paces

Also known as: Deliberately Doing Mean Things to your Hero.

One thing that got me when I was reading one of Friend’s stories, about one of his characters meeting him, was that the character asked, “Why are you doing this?”

His response was, “It makes a good story.”

Which, if I were that character, would make me feel very forlorn. Why is my creator putting me through all of these rigors if they know what it will do to me? Don’t they love me? What the hell did I do to deserve this?

Thinking about it, probably all of my characters would ask me that.

The reason is the story. It is the rigors and the hardships and the tough, stress, anger, sorrow that makes everything so real and so tangible, it puts more life into the character, it is another way to relate and fall in love with them. If they experienced nothing traumatic or alarming, nothing heartfelt or upsetting, wouldn’t you feel even more distanced from them?

I still remember another friend giggling madly as he thought up embarrassing situations to put his character in. It amuses us, and there’s a point to it. It helps development, it helps move plot, it helps us see the dimensions of not only the story but the character themselves.

Tossing a villain at them that they can’t kill right away, shoving them into a situation where they struggle, forcing them to find a way out, putting them in the face of adversity, it is all for the sake of the story. It is what we do as story-tellers. We love our characters, we want to see them flourish, we want them to go above and beyond, and we put them in these situations because we know they can find a way out, and because it will help them in the long run, to get to the point we want them to be at.

One thing I will say is that you shouldn’t just throw something at them just to do it, and if you end up not liking what you did, you CAN go back and change it. Do not put them in something that you don’t like, and unless it’s your intention, that you want, that will aid the story, don’t put them in something without a way out in mind.

It is probably one of my favorite things, to find new things to put them up against, because of how dynamic it makes the story. Action, suspense, thrill. It keeps the reader on the edge (and sometimes the writer), hooks them in and shows them something unexpected.

Your character might think you’re a sadist, but– actually, I’m not gonna finish that statement, that sounds really awful.

Don’t be afraid to do mean things, if you like where it takes your hero. Remember, they’re on a journey, and you decide where it goes, but it should always contribute to the story in some way. You can apologize later with some good karma, if it works out.

-The Novice Wordsmith

En-Trope-y and Immortality

Growing up, I noticed a lot of people I wrote with had characters that were immortal, or, to be more precise, characters that they didn’t consider ever had an ending. The first couple of years of that were okay. After that, I got bored and frustrated.

When it comes to tropes, there’s very little that isn’t one. Tropes are tools, things that, at the base, have been used before, but the difference between “trope” being a bad word and an okay word, is how you use it. That, I found out quickly. I remember friends browsing tvtropes.com and other friends getting upset about being called a trope and I never really formed my own opinion of them until later.

Tropes are tools. The little girl whose father was her hero, so she decides to walk in his steps, to greatness, only to find that she needs to walk in her own to find it. The teacher who finds excitement in the company of others because he finds his work so boring. The twins who don’t let anything get between them because they’re so close. They set up the story, they give you a subject and a way to find a conflict, they show you where to go, give you something to achieve, and show you how to get it.

Immortality, one of the broader, more difficult tropes to execute (pun intended), can be sticky. Or so far that I’ve seen. Is it one character that’s immortal among the rest of a mortal world? Is the race immortal, a la the elf race in most books/games/movies? Or is everyone immortal and there’s some kind of catch about death?

After thinking about it, I wonder if it’s not just the one way that’s the only bad way to go about immortality. It is something that can be very dynamic for a character to deal with, watching loved ones die while they remain forever, or watching the world crumble and themselves stand apart from it. When it’s simply. “well nothing can kill me,” invincibility, just out of stubbornness, then it’s gone too far.

When it comes to living forever, there is more to consider than just what ends they can or cannot meet, like I said.

“John stared ahead at the pink and purple horizon. ‘It’s so beautiful, have you ever seen anything like it?’ Cathy asked. He smiled softly. ‘No,’ he lied with excellence, because in fact, he had seen the sun set like this countless times in his ageless life.”

Don’t be intimidated, as I like to say; if you’re considering a character being immortal, go for it. See what it brings you, see if you like it. That’s what matters above all, having a line and a character that you like, and that you like where it goes. You may have a dozen that live forever, if that’s what you want, but think about what kind of lives they have. Think about what’s gone on, and all the different possibilities to find ways to shape how they’ve become. Did they fight in wars, are they wealthy and well off, or do they prefer a less worldly life?

The best thing about making characters is that it’s a brand new canvas, you have something clean to paint on, to create. You get to mold and make something profound, and there’s no doubt you will.

Personally, I haven’t had an immortal character in years, but I hadn’t thought about it until now. Having the tangible ending to their lives is what makes the characters more real for me, it’s something I enjoy having, the thought that their lives are jut as fragile as mine.

Back to the tropes, some are easier to do right than others. “Right” in this case is defined by your creativity and originality: the bones can be the same, but it’s what you do with the muscle and flesh that defines the character, quite literally. Don’t ever be afraid of the word ‘trope,’ or any word, for that matter; do what you’ve got bubbling up in that wild, imaginative head of yours and don’t let anything stop you.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Questionnaire and Questioning

I had been planning this post after the prompt about meeting characters, and then it just so happened that someone who follows me (and who I follow), made a post that coincides, and the results were entertaining.

One of the things I absolutely love about character development and finding the voice and personality of a character so strongly, is that if you had a set of questions in front of you to ask them, you could get answers back authentic to who they are. Jon has an excellent example, an onslaught of varied, unique and interesting questions that you may not have thought to ask before, but it helps flesh out the character well, in unexpected ways.

Friend took an approach similar to this one to figure out the dynamic of his characters he was going to write for for Camp in April and July, things about their greatest accomplishments, what they buy at the grocery store, what kind of character they’d play in a certain game.

It gives you a feel for them, and it helps give them a stronger voice, I think. I used to do these questionnaires when I was younger, for new characters, and for old ones, and just sunk into it on a rainy day. It really is one of my favorite things to do, but for being that, I haven’t done it much at all recently.

Regardless, I encourage it, at least give it a shot. Check out Jon’s blog, the link up above, and I think he has another set of questions in his blog somewhere, too, or just do a random search online. You can’t go wrong. Or, if you think of something random; what kind of coffee do they like, would they go to Starbucks? Do they like flowers, how do they feel about old, classic paintings?

On top of that, it manages to give them some more dimension, making them more human (or humanoid, or humanistic… err… depending if they’re aliens or not). I like what it brings to the forefront, more than just the things you would typically know from reading the novel or the stories, the questionnaires bring forward a lot of random little tidbits, showing off all edges.

I’m a fan of reading things like that, too. I have a friend whose blog is run about and “by” her character, and I see different prompts and questions about odd little things pop up every so often. Inappropriate thoughts or things being shouted, a particular phrase.

Maybe I’ll do one of these sooner than later, myself…

-The Novice Wordsmith

Prompt/Dare/Challenge: Meeting the Main Character

In a stroke of genius, I’ve sort of forgotten entirely about posting all day, but I need to share with you what happened yesterday, because I can’t let it rest, and I’m still buzzing from it.

So yesterday, Friend gives me an interesting prompt, after we had a conversation about ‘what do your characters say about you?’ Then he said, here, use this as a prompt. When he said, “No, seriously,” I paid attention, and it clicked and it would not let go. Like I said, still buzzing.

The prompt is this:  “If your characters could have lunch/dinner/breakfast/tea with you, what would they pick, and what would you talk about, and what would they think of you afterwards?”

Think about that. Really. Take one character at a time, and go out to meet them. How would they react, what would they say? Would you even get along? Try it with old characters, try it with brand new characters, fit yourself into a point in time of their life where you want to see them. Are they young, is it the latest moment you’ve put them in, or is it something in the distant past?

I’m still not done writing. I’ve had so many ideas and one today just pulled me under and wouldn’t let me breathe until I finished. When I step back and blink and have to remind myself to breathe after looking it all over, I think I did a pretty decent job.

Let your characters surprise you. I had one that switched in a direction I never expected, and I had so many other things I wanted to say, but that didn’t happen. The other was as complex as the character herself, and had so much dynamic and different elements implemented that wasn’t even intentional at first. Some will be simpler. There was one yesterday that had turned out to be a dud, but because I’d fallen out of sync with that character.

Go out to them, let them come to you, or have them contact you somehow. Are you strangers? Do they know you? Have you seen each other before? How much do they like or dislike you, and why, what do they have to say about what you’ve done to and for them? Do they know what kind of being you are, or have they never seen a human before?

As one of my favorite prompts of this month, let alone probably of this year, I hope you give it a chance, and I really hope you like it at least half as much as I did.

-The Novice Wordsmith