The Development of a Dynamic Character in Fiction

Woman writing dynamic characters with back to tree

Hero Images / Getty Images

A dynamic, or round, character is a major character in a work of fiction who encounters conflict and is changed by it. Dynamic characters tend to be more fully developed and described than flat, or static, characters. If you think of the characters you most love in fiction, they probably seem as real to you as people you know in real life. These are dynamic characters; this is sometimes also referred to as the depth of characterization.
A number of elements in fiction reveal character, making the character dynamic. These include descriptions of the character, the character's dialogue, the character's responses to the conflicts that arise in the plot and the character's thoughts.

Creating Dynamic Character Through Internal Conflict

One of the easiest ways to make characters dynamic is for them to have conflicting ideas or for their internal world and their external world to be at odds, which provides tension and conflict. Think about what a person says versus what they think and show the difference in your fiction.

  • What do they choose to reveal about themselves?
  • How do they craft their outer persona?
  • Are they transparent in terms of how they are perceived or are they secretive -- manipulative and complicit in hiding their interior lives and showing a false self?
  • How much do they lie?
  • And how do they justify their behavior?
  • Are they capable of intimacy, and if so, what does that intimacy look like to them?
  • How do they treat the people who they love?
  • How do they express anger and happiness? How do they show weakness?

The answers to these questions help you to paint a rounded character.

Character Flaws

Another way to show the complexity of a character is through their flaws. A flaw does not necessarily mean a giant scar on a character's face; it is simply a blanket term for anything outside the stereotype. A simple example is a character who is a mother who feels inadequate, who is not a super mom, who doesn't always know the right thing to do or say as a parent. Often taking two or three (seemingly) disparate personality traits and putting them together can work to achieve this. You might write a number of personality traits on separate pieces of paper and pick up two or three randomly. Then write about a character who shows those traits.

Personal Inspiration

Another way to think about fictional characters is to take a good look at yourself and those around you. List your likes and dislikes, your passions and your repulsions. Look at your hobbies and habits. Be honest about the things that bother you. What is your biggest secret? What is your vice? You will probably quickly see that your answers do not fit into a stereotype.

If it is too difficult a task to look at yourself this way, think of someone you know well and try to parse these aspects of their personality. Everyone is infinitely complex and full of stories (both good and bad). For your writing to express maximum realism, fictional characters should reflect this. Creating believable characters takes time and thought.