Now that we have a better understanding of what a character arc is and why it is important, let’s talk about the different types of characters.
As with scene types, there are different ways we can talk about character types. In fact, there are three different ways we can talk about characters: by quality, by role, and by archetype.
In this post we will talk about characters by quality which deals with the way a character changes (or doesn’t) over the course of a story.
A dynamic character is one who changes over the course of the story. As such, dynamic characters tend to be the most important characters in a story: protagonists and secondary characters are often dynamic. The changes a dynamic character goes through can be positive or negative and they can be big changes or small ones, but the character must change. Often the changes of a dynamic character tie into resolving the overall story conflict.
A static character (sometimes called a flat character) is one who does not change over the course of the story. Static characters tend to be tertiary characters. They have a small but important role to play. A few static characters within a story are fine but if too many are used it may have a negative effect on your story.
Round characters are similar to dynamic characters. They have complex personalities and the ability to change. Unlike with dynamic characters, round characters show their ability to change right from the start. Round characters are less dependent on their change tying into the story conflict.
Stock characters are familiar figures who appear in stories time and again. In this way, they are similar to character archetypes. Because of their repeated appearance in stories, stock characters can easily become conventional or stereotypical. Stock characters tend to have a fixed set of personality traits and can be referred to as the mentor, the geeky friend, the joker, etc.
A symbolic character represents something bigger than themselves. Often what they represent ties into the broader themes of the narrative and their existence serves to guide the other characters (and perhaps even the reader). When employing a symbolic character, subtlety is needed to ensure the symbolism isn’t too obvious.
Understanding character types by quality is important regardless of what genre of story you are writing. Most novels have at least three or four of these types of characters.
Is there a character type you write really well or that you struggle to write? Let me know in the comments.
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