December 31, 2012 by bradcharlesbeals
The word static, when describing a character, does not have to be dirty. Think of the static character as a pillar–solid, immovable, something to build around.
In Sophocles’ Antigone, the main character of the same name is static. She initiates the turning point because no one else has the courage to, but the rising action takes place around her and in reaction to her. She’s the pillar against which everyone else bumps.
In the Cohen brothers film adaptation of True Grit, we are presented with one of contemporary cinema’s most memorable characters: Mattie Ross. Like Antigone, she is utterly static. We meet her as a 14-year-old pig-headed dynamo and say farewell to her as a 39-year-old version of the same. She changes not an iota. She too is the constant. The other characters are variables, and through their interactions the drama is conveyed.
The fiction writer tends to get soakers in one of two ditches: characters that are all static on the one side; and characters that change too much on the other. Sophocles and the Cohen bros. have given us good models for keeping our socks dry. A simple story, a few real characters to develop, and one good pillar to knock them against.