Stock Character: Definition & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

When choosing a type of stock character, writers have two main options: dynamic and static characters. Consider the definition of these character types, as well as types of static characters, and explore examples in well-known TV shows and films. Updated: 09/30/2021

Types of Characters

In order to create the story that could become an audience favorite, the author must create realistic characters. There are two main types of characters all stories should have: dynamic characters and static characters. Dynamic characters are the ones who go through some sort of change. They are what moves the story along and make it come alive. The rest will be static characters. Static characters are ones who do not change throughout the story.

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Types of Static Characters

Within the realm of static characters, there are ones known as flat characters. These take the consistency of static characters a bit further. Where static characters are consistent in their actions and personality, flat characters are consistent in a limited number of specific qualities. Their characteristics are few and simple. For example, in the Harry Potter series, Neville Longbottom is a boy the same age as Harry but is known for being forgetful and clumsy. He is the laughable screw-up. Neville is a flat character. He has those two main qualities, and seemingly, nothing more.

Furthermore, some flat characters can also be stock characters. Stock characters are ones who represent specific stereotypes. These characters are types and not individuals. Stock characters are based on clichés and social prejudices. For example, the dumb blonde, the mean stepmother, the loyal servant, the abusive boyfriend, or the evil dictator or CEO are all stock characters. Everyone can think of books or even movies where these characters can be seen. The stock character does almost nothing to affect the main characters and can be easily replaced with a new character. Many can, in fact, be taken out of the story and have no effect on the overall plot.

Many television shows even make a joke of the stock character. For example, in The Simpsons, there is the typical neighbor character in Ned Flanders, who is married. The neighbor's wife is a stock character role. She typically is a simple housewife spending her time raising kids or nagging her husband. In fact, in a later season, her character is killed off and her death has nearly no effect on the Simpson family at all. Similarly, in the show King of Queens, the main character, Doug, has a best friend who is married. In a later season, the best friend gets divorced. The wife disappears from the show (besides some minor appearances), but the main plot keeps going. The show doesn't change after losing the best friend's wife stock character.

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