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TimYeti
09-28-2016, 03:21 AM
Hello folks!

I'm new here on the forums, but please don't let my low post count fool you, I've been writing for several years and now that I'm free from college I'm looking to write more serious works, things that I hope to publish. That being said, I've run into something that I've never encountered before in my for-fun writings.

Let me preface this by saying that what I'm planning to do is start up a Web-Serial that has an ongoing story that I can keep adding to until I decide to conclude it. I know this isn't the traditional way Web-Serials are done, but I've heard/read that the Web-Serial genre can take the form of something resembling an ongoing series rather than a novel. The main concept I had in mind was to structure the whole thing in a series of story arcs, each with a main conflict/antagonist/antagonistic force that needs to be overcome to move forward.

Now that that's said, onto my question (or, discussion topic, rather).

How do you guys feel about static characters?

I remember there being a time when (for me) the term static character was looked down upon as something that is bad. That, however, was a high school mentality of mine, and I'm beginning to wonder how bad that practice truly is? I am well aware that authors have managed to pull off static characters in the past (I think Sherlock Holmes when I think of a static character), and I know the pitfall is that they can easily be written to be uninteresting, so the true trial in writing a static character is writing one that has flaws, wants, desires, and many levels to their personality to make them more fully realized as an individual.

With all this being said, I wonder how well I can pull off having a static main character in my Web-Serial, which is set in a Fantasy/Steam-Punk world. I desire a character who has fully realized himself as a person when the "call to action" reaches him and he launches into the brunt of the story (which is essentially a macguffin quest that is woven with themes of strife, war, and poverty). But, are my desires feasible? How would you recommend I keep this person interesting and keep readers rooting for his success? I know of ways to build sympathy for a character, but I wonder what pitfalls I can run into with creating a static character of this nature.

What do you think? Is there advice you could give me?

I know well, and very much subscribe to the mantra of: "write the story you wish to read", so I know this is something that I, personally would enjoy, but I'm curious on the opinion of others. Is this a readable concept?

Sorry for the long post, but I hope this sparks some measure of a discussion among everyone.

Cheers!

grandma2isaac
09-28-2016, 03:31 AM
Tim, Would a little comic tic work? Or perhaps a habit that seems to show up at inopportune moments? These kinds of quirks keep me interested as I am waiting for the next moment of insanity.

MonsterTamer
09-28-2016, 03:40 AM
I'm fine with static characters. I know there is an opportunity to build sub-plots around dynamic characters who undergo significant shifts, but unless it is gradual or justified, it feels formulaic to me when I encounter it. And of course, assessing a character as static or dynamic is subjective in many respects.

In a work like you are proposing, I think keeping the MC static would lend a degree of continuity to the pieces of the story, especially if a reader will be required to wait for new segments.

TimYeti
09-28-2016, 03:55 AM
In a work like you are proposing, I think keeping the MC static would lend a degree of continuity to the pieces of the story, especially if a reader will be required to wait for new segments.

This is a lot of my thought behind making the main character static. I like the idea of having arcs of the story that occur one after another. That and I want him to be more apt to deal with the conflict that comes his way. It's going to help that he's older (late 20s or early 30s), I think.

griffins
09-28-2016, 04:06 AM
I think static characters can work in a serial.
I've always found Conan the barbarian to be pretty static, for example. He rescues damsels and fights sorcerers and otherworldly beasts, yet learns virtually nothing between each episode. As you mentioned, Sherlock Holmes is kind of like this, and maybe James Bond, too (they might change actors, but he's still the same dude). But we tune in each time to see the protagonist do his/her patented "thing," so the character is constant but it's the premise and milieu of each episode that changes.

A more extreme example is the cast of Southpark, or Simpsons, who have virtually not aged in their entire time on-air. The kids have been in elementary school for like 20 years! But the stories aren't about character development, it's focused on changing the status quo in outlandish, interesting ways and returning it back to normal in the next episode.

Brightdreamer
09-28-2016, 04:23 AM
Yes, as others have noted, static works for episodic fiction, like serials and TV shows (especially before everything had to have a Mytharc - and even then, there are often "off" eps where the characters aren't required to grow or change, but simply Do Their Thing.)

Static doesn't have to mean shallow or boring or inhuman or infallible, though. (Even Sherlock got it wrong once in a rare while...) Give your character flaws as well as strengths, and be sure to give them personalities a reader will want to revisit. If your story allows it, also remember that interactions with recurring characters can add dimension and show different sides of your MC. Sherlock alone would've likely been frustrating for all but the most analytical readers. Sherlock with Doctor Watson made the detective more accessible, and revealed more about Sherlock (and the doctor) than either simply working alone.

TimYeti
09-28-2016, 05:06 AM
focused on changing the status quo in outlandish, interesting ways and returning it back to normal in the next episode.

This is one thing I would like to avoid. I recognize that what I will be writing is not at all like South Park, Family Guy, or The Simpsons, but my goal is to have the world itself grow and evolve around this character who remains relatively the same moral wise. Is that going to be a snag I might hit?


Static doesn't have to mean shallow or boring or inhuman or infallible, though. (Even Sherlock got it wrong once in a rare while...) Give your character flaws as well as strengths, and be sure to give them personalities a reader will want to revisit. If your story allows it, also remember that interactions with recurring characters can add dimension and show different sides of your MC. Sherlock alone would've likely been frustrating for all but the most analytical readers. Sherlock with Doctor Watson made the detective more accessible, and revealed more about Sherlock (and the doctor) than either simply working alone.

I'm glad you said this. This paragraph helped to ease quite a few of my worries when it came to static characters not exactly meaning shallow. When it comes to allowing my characters to fail, I tend to be a bit cruel to my characters. I'd say they tend to get things wrong more than they get it right. That being said, I aim for a more 50/50 split, just to keep it less infuriating for readers. What I'm trying to say here is that I most certainly will have failure in my story (within reason) to keep my characters human and interesting.

As for side characters, I'll definitely flesh out the ensemble cast as much as I can to give more depth to the world as well as draw comparisons to the main character, so it's good to know I'm going on the right path with such a thing.

ClareGreen
09-28-2016, 11:42 AM
Question for you from the cheap seats - how do you define 'static character', how is that different to 'dynamic character', and are there any other options?

Is a static character someone who goes through the world more-or-less unaltered?
Is a static character someone who's pretty much the same at 40 as they were at 15, and will probably be similar at 65 only more so?

If it is, these can be good traits as well as bad. It's the first one that really sings to me as a writer, because in refusing to be changed these characters often change the world around them, but the second can be useful too. The example of Conan was mentioned above; in time he won a crown and set about running a kingdom as he thought a kingdom should be run, and in doing so he changed his world far more profoundly than slaughtering evil wizards and massacring dark cults would ever have achieved. And yet Conan the ruler was still Conan, just with a metal hat; the core of the character was unchanging despite the profound changes he made, and if he hadn't been unchanging he'd never have set a new standard for Kingship.

There are many examples of the unchanging character in life as well as in fiction, and they aren't all dotty old Aunt Mildred or the Wise Old Sage Who Gets Killed In Act II. Sometimes they're the 80-something baron who straps on his armour to defend his 14-year-old King's realm, because it's the right thing to do. Sometimes they're the dark lady who's trying to take over the world because she wants the relic. Sometimes it's the grandmother who worked as an engineer during the war effort and knows in her bones that women can be engineers too because she proved it. Sometimes it's the Sergeant who doesn't see why standards should slip just because there's a war on, or the shopkeeper who isn't going to sell bananas in kilos just because someone tells him to when pounds have worked perfectly well for centuries.

Or maybe I'm getting the static/dynamic thing wrong.

Once!
09-28-2016, 12:59 PM
Some static characters can be a very good thing. I'd almost go so far as to say that most stories need some characters to stand still so that other characters can grow around them. It can get very tiring if every single character is on a very prominent character arc.

Or maybe what we mean is that some characters change very slightly over time. James Bond does change - in the books. Sherlock Holmes does change - again in the books. But in each case the changes are minor and subtle. Bond gets more cynical and world weary. Holmes changes his attitude to women after THE woman. But their main characteristics don't change all that much.

Does Gandalf change much in LOTR (again, the books)? He does his hot wish, fast spin and tumble laundry routine when he scrubs up from grey to white. But apart from that he is largely the same voice of exposition and deux ex machina eagle-friend throughout Hobbit and LOTR.

SillyLittleTwit
09-28-2016, 03:11 PM
Does Gandalf change much in LOTR (again, the books)? He does his hot wish, fast spin and tumble laundry routine when he scrubs up from grey to white. But apart from that he is largely the same voice of exposition and deux ex machina eagle-friend throughout Hobbit and LOTR.

Gandalf, Aragorn, Faramir don't change. Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin do, of course.

I'd suggest that there should be less worry about static/dynamic, and more attention on creating rounded (as opposed to flat).

TimYeti
09-28-2016, 05:58 PM
You all have raised interesting points.

When it comes to defining a static vs dynamic character, I instantly look toward morals as a measure of this. To me, a dynamic character is one who undergoes a distinct moral shift through the course of the story -- they are faced with something that challenges their moral standing, and they are forced to change as a result of it. I think of Emma from Emma by Jane Austen (even though it is of a genre vastly different than fantasy fiction). Using this logic, a static character is one who has their morals more set in stone and a change isn't warranted through the events of the story.

Since this has been my thought process, I would likely make my character older (as I said before) to have it make more sense that they've got defined morals. It would seem to me that the characters the most often (though, not always) change in stories are younger, and haven't quite figured out their entire moral standing in the world.

Perhaps, however, there is something to be said of characters who undergo puberty, and don't have to face a moral shift, but rather a coming into morals through a "coming of age" story. I think of Harry Potter for an example of this and, to a similar (although not exactly the same) degree, Frodo, as mentioned by SillyLittleTwit. These sorts of characters, I would think, aren't changing their morals, but rather adopting new ones to fit situations that they hadn't previously encountered.

That's merely my thought process behind the whole thing. When it comes down to it, I am going to make my character more adult and experienced in life so that he's a well rounded individual and, by extension, a well rounded character who (I hope) is interesting to read about for however long I choose to keep this Web Serial going.

Megann
09-28-2016, 06:46 PM
I think one of the ways in which a static character can be interesting is by trickling parts of his/her backstory throughout the series. So the character doesn't change, but what we learn about them does and why they are the way the are. And if you spread this out, you will always have something new to reveal.

Myrealana
09-28-2016, 07:16 PM
An interesting static character can work well in a serial.

As mentioned above, the first thing I thought of was James Bond. It's very apparent in the books, but even Daniel Craig's newer, edgier Bond may have an emotional journey over the course of a story line (Vesper), but he returns to the same baseline eventually. Jack Reacher also comes to mind--though I've only read three of the books, so maybe there is "character development" in others.

I would say it's certainly doable as an action/adventure focused story. The character would have to be interesting enough to keep the reader engaged and make them care about whether he wins or loses, but if the adventure was good enough, I'd read.