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.
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.
Returning to Neville Longbottom and the Harry Potter series, one can argue that Neville is in fact a stock character. He provides the comic relief. He is the fool or the goofball who gives the reader a break from the serious events the rest of the characters are fighting through. However, one mark of a great writer is the ability to throw the reader off by changing the characters. Just because a character begins as a flat character, even a stock character, doesn't mean that he can't transform in the end. For most of the series, Neville is the typical incompetent goof, but his role drastically changes in the final novel. He becomes a courageous leader and in fact completes one of the most dangerous tasks in the final fight. In this way, J.K. Rowling brought new life to his character and made him into a dynamic one.
Characters bring a story to life. They make it possible for millions of people to relate to one novel, movie or even television show. Characters are generally divided into two categories: dynamic and static. Dynamic characters grow and change throughout the story, while static characters do not grow and change. Furthermore, static characters can also be flat characters or stock characters. Flat characters show two or three basic personality traits, where stock characters represent one stereotype only. Keep in mind two important facts: sometimes characters can change from a static character to a dynamic character, and both dynamic and static characters are needed to make a story realistic and memorable.
When this lesson ends, you should be able to:
- Contrast dynamic and static characters
- Identify two types of static characters
- Define stock characters
- Give examples of stock characters in literature
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Stock Character: Definition & Examples
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