Static Characters: Is it always a bad thing?

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Post by DeuxExDimensia on Fri Jan 08, 2016 7:16 pm

I sort of thought it would be interesting to open a discussion on static and dynamic characters, and what everyone's thoughts are on the matter. For starters though, we should define what a static character and a dynamic character are. 

A static character is a character that does not change throughout the course of a story or work, staying relatively the same from beginning to end. 

A dynamic character is a character that does change throughout the course of a story or work, receiving one or maybe even two major changes throughout. The character arc of a dynamic character is often obvious and easy to pick out.

Many long running franchises contain characters that are static, and dynamic characters in long running franchises will probably often be relegated to a single game or two. 
The fact that a static character doesn't get any character development is not always a bad thing to me however. There are many static characters in many works that work in the story's favor. And sometimes for long running franchise, it's important to keep the main character or multiple main characters static so that jumping into the games from any point isn't confusing or weird. 

This is purely from a marketing standpoint, but static main characters are a must-have for the Sonic franchise as a whole because if a kid jumped into, let's say, the very next game in the series and Sonic had all of this development and baggage they may find it confusing and difficult to follow.

I think that Sonic is an example of a good static character because while I don't personally like his general personality, Sonic's purpose as the main protagonist is to act as a window for us, the player, to experience the story and game through. His personality is not meant to change as much because if he went through dynamic changes during the story line that would change the point of view that we, the player, look at the story from because it would change the perspective of the 'window' we're watching it from- or, Sonic. That's not to say that Sonic is an entirely blank character, he does give us some preconceived notions of certain characters and the way that the game may want us to feel about them because of the way Sonic sees them. 

Sonic also has some little nuances in his character that can be observed through his actions in different games so while his overall personality doesn't change, part of him keeps his 'hero' charm because sometimes we do occasionally get to see different sides of him. While the series has taken most of the main characters and made them rather flat for the time being, I think that a skilled enough writer would be able to take Sonic and make him interesting while still keeping him static. 

Character development isn't the only tell of a good character, and I think that a lot of people tend to be sorely mistaken about those sorts of things. Just because a character doesn't change, that doesn't make them a bad character or an uninteresting character. I think it takes an observant eye to bring the best out of a static character.

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Post by Caliburn on Wed Jan 13, 2016 2:51 pm

I'd personally love to see Sonic spiral into a completely different character arc in a big title. That's just me though. Characters like Gamma are absolutely brilliant to me and help me stay interested.

Though part of the experience is always thinking of how Sonic would react to something, or how things could change. I don't want Sonic to ALWAYS be "hey im the coolest" if it really doesn't call for it. Moments in Sonic Adventure 2, ESPECIALLY his "last" moments to Amy and Tails show how awesome of a character he really is in my opinion.

I like to see progression. Tails becoming more independent in SA? That was pretty cute, but by the end of the game you can clearly tell that he's a lot more confident then he used to be.

I dunno, I just like... I like to see changes in personality. I like to see things that affect the characters. Ranging from severity.

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Post by Spekkal on Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:06 pm

From a narrative standpoint, static characters are useful. They can be used as sort of... a means to a goal. You can make up a character to then use simply to advance a plot. I'm rather tired and can't think of an example, but you get the idea. Not every character needs to be complex and developed, but I suppose it depends on the importance of the medium, and the character.
For example, the main character of a comic or a book can't really be that static. It's not a good story then. People need to change and develop through their experiences to make them tougher and stronger. It's a progressive thing.
But with games, like Sonic and Mario and Kirby, those characters HAVE to be static. You can't tell a story with them across various games, you can't show the progression because they're a mascot. They HAVE to be static for it to work.
I suppose in the end, static characters ARE good, but only really serve a purpose to be used as a tool to get a result to some degree.

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Post by TheEndIsNearUs on Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:24 am

I agree with Spekkal; static characters have their place in storytelling as much as dynamic ones. If fact, sometimes a character renaming static can exist as a foil to the dynamic ones. Not to mention, writing a minor character in too much detail can be distracting from the main story, and can lead to a messy narrative, so it's good to find a balance in what one actually includes in the main canon.

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