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What Is Dynamic Characterization?

By E. Reeder
Updated May 23, 2024
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In fiction writing, authors have to develop complex characters if stories are to be effective and believable. Many works of fiction, including short stories and novels, include dynamic characterization, which happens when a character changes in a major way during the course of a story. For dynamic characterization to occur, the character must become significantly altered in terms of his or her beliefs, attitudes, mindset or lifestyle. A dynamic character, then, has to change in a more important way as a person than simply changing his or her mood or becoming injured, or even dying, during a story.

Characterization in fiction involves creating characters with enough details, nuances and traits that readers can imagine them while still leaving something to the imagination. Flat characters, often secondary or infrequently featured, are those that seem rather one-sided and simple, because the author did not fully develop them. Round characters, on the other hand, have been developed through their words and actions as well as through imagery so they seem multidimensional and complex. Static characters, who can be either round or flat, are basically the same at the end of the story as they are at the beginning of a story, because they have not undergone any major personal development. Dynamic characters have undergone considerable metamorphosis by the end of a fiction story, compared to how they were at the beginning.

Dynamic characterization often involves the protagonist, or main character, in a story. A work of fiction might begin with a lucky protagonist who was selfish, mean-spirited and unwilling to do anything to help others if there was no benefit to him. During the course of the story, he might develop health problems and, therefore, require the help and assistance of others, strangers as well as family, to survive. By the end of this story, after he has recovered, he may have developed some insight into his character flaws, become appreciative of the help he received, and decided to change his ways and help others. This would be an example of dynamic characterization, because he had changed significantly and learned from his experiences.

In another story, a female protagonist might be too ambitious and involved with her career to give her husband and children the attention and nurturing they really need. During the story, one of her children might develop depression and begin having problems in school and with his friends. His mother may then realize that, for her son to be happy and healthy, she would need to become more involved with him. She might develop a healthy balance between her career and her personal life by the end of the story as well as a renewed focus on maintaining a healthy relationship with her son and the rest of her family. This change in perspective also would be classified as dynamic characterization.

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