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Column Six: Dynamic and Static Characters and Homonyms

By Janice Alonso

A dynamic character is one that changes during the course of the story. This change is usually an inward evolving and the change is permanent. This change can be in attitude, outlook, or the way he/she views life in general. A static character is one that remains the same. The character at the end of the story is no different from the one at the start. While any or all of the persons in a story can fall under either definition, we’ll look once again at the protagonist.

Since a story focuses on one main character and his/her want in relation to the theme, it is equally important that this person grows because of this story. He/she should learn something or become enlightened in a way that will be to his/her well-being. Readers look for attitude adjustments, but that isn’t to say that physical changes are not in order either. These changes happen as the main character interacts with the other characters and navigates through the conflicts arising in the plot. The point at which the climax occurs is the scene of enlightenment – or the “ah-ha” moment. Let’s examine one of the most popular and well-known attitude adjustments in literature, that of Ebenezer Scrooge.

When Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” opens, Scrooge is a crotchety, miserly, mean, callous, and sour man. In short, he is detestable. In fact, he is so synonymous with these negative traits that his very name is used to refer to people who behave in such a way. By the end of the story the man has morphed into the opposite. It literally occurs overnight, and it takes three spirits to make Scrooge realize his nastiness and its potential consequences.

Because of his rebirth, audiences through the centuries and today delight in his transformation. Scrooge didn’t want to change; he wanted the world to exist by his standards. It is the audience who wants him to change, and for his sake. Our hearts tug when Spirit One visits and reveals his past. We understand how he came to be what he is. We don’t like his current character, but we see that this coldness is not his fault. With Spirit Two Scrooge looks with a mirror perspective to see what he is . . . and the ways things are now. In this second scene, the audience returns to the Scrooge we don’t like. Spirit Three exposes the possible result of what will happen if Scrooge doesn’t change. He is scared and the audience is scared for him as well. We are thrilled when he announces, “I can change,” and indeed he does. The audience rejoices for a soul saved. It’s a simple story, but one that illustrates beautifully the meaning of a dynamic character and how this change connects a reader emotionally to the main character.

A static character goes through no such change. Beware that your protagonists do not remain stagnant. Main characters must grow to make a story worth telling. Don’t make your readers finish the story with a shrug of their shoulders and the comment, “So what?” They may have stayed with you to the end with this book, but you may have lost them for any future endeavors or recommendations to their friends . . . if your manuscript even gets to the publishing stage. You may have perfect grammar in an immaculate presentation. Even your elegant prose and knowledge of literary tools can’t save a character who stays the same from beginning to end.

Not all characters need to be dynamic. Often a static character is useful to remind the reader what happens to people who do not “see the light” like the protagonist has. The main character has a want: Scrooge wants the world to be as he views it. In “The Christmas Carol,” Scrooge doesn’t achieve his want, and it is for the betterment of the story (and Scrooge). Mr. Dickens used Ebenezer Scrooge to illustrate the difference a charitable person can make.

Our homonyms are “alot,” “a lot,” and “allot.”
Alot – is not a word. Never has been, get rid of it!
A lot – means many.
ex: I have a lot of shoes.
Allot – is to divide or distribute.
ex: The librarian will allot two books to each student.

Step Six: Look at your protagonist and write a paragraph about his/her changes, identifying the “ah-ha” moment.

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