The Central Static Character

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November 15, 2016 by bradcharlesbeals

pillarA few years ago I wrote here that as writers we shouldn’t be afraid of leaving a character static as long as there are dynamic characters and a strong plot in support.

But how does that actually work? How does the reader accept a central character as static? And doesn’t that fly in the face of modern, character-driven story telling?

When a static character occupies the center of a story, the reader will still act as a reader. Her eye will still be drawn to those places in the story where there is change or potential change, i.e. dynamic characters and plot. This is a given, and one that authors can use strategically.

If the central character can facilitate that drawing of the reader’s eye in such a way that it always lands on something dynamic, then it won’t matter that the character is static. If he is static, as John Roy is in Blood Bound, then his role will be to hold up those characters (like Louisa, Clay, Bill, and Daniel) who are dynamic. John Roy is also the protagonist who moves the plot forward. He does not need to be dynamic to do that, but he does need to be forceful, which he is, in a very static way, from beginning to end.

There’s no story to be revealed within a static character, but strong central characters can be static as long as they support dynamic characters and drive a compelling plot.

So No. This structure does not fly in the face of modern character-driven story telling, at least not when it’s done right.

For more, this video discusses Blood Bound and the Greek play Antigone, another static-character-driven drama.



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