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The Subtle STATIC TRAIT
Secret Weapon of the Clever Writer


The Static Trait is the small personal HABIT an individual character displays which reveals their personal Neurosis, their driving NEED, especially in stressful situations. This habitual or even ritual behavior acts as both their greatest source of trouble and the linchpin to their success. It's the individual character's "Accident Waiting to Happen".

The most obvious place to find visible Static Traits is in both Comedies and Tragedies. These stories (and movies) RELY on their characters' Static Traits to linchpin the plot.

What made Laurel and Hardy so funny, were the little neurotic habits -- the static traits -- that would appear under stressful situations. Abbot and Costello built whole routines on Bud Abbot's little twitchy responses. The climactic scene in every one of their movies involved Abbot in a panic attack. You spent half the movie going "Oh no! Don't! Don't! Don't!...AH! He did."

I don't watch tragedies as a rule, but just about every Greek play I've read involves the Protagonist acting on their Neurosis, the emotional need they can't -- or won't -- control which brings them crashing down.

    Pandora acting on her uncontrollable Curiosity – opened that box of ills.
    Paris acting on his uncontrollable need for Love – judged Venus as the loveliest goddess in a contest with Hera and Athena, to gain the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. Unfortunately, she was already married to a powerful and vindictive warlord.
    Oedipus acting on his uncontrollable need for Recognition – killed the king and married the queen, who just happened to be his biological parents.
    Arachne acting on her uncontrollable Pride - bragged that her ability to weave was greater than a goddess's and was turned into a spider.
    Prometheus acting on uncontrollable his need for Revenge - gave fire to mankind and was thus chained to a rock to be eaten alive by buzzards for the rest of eternity.

In stories that are Not tragedies, this neurosis-based habit DOES cause their downfall, but also comes to their rescue at the Climax then CHANGES by the end of the story, quite literally Showing that the character has conquered their neurosis.

The movie The Mummy is loaded with static traits. Just about every single character in the movie had a static trait based on their personal neurosis – and either lived or died because of it.

> Evelyn's (Evie) personal neurosis was her obsession with being an Egyptologist. Her static trait had to do with books. If it was a book, she had to touch it. Evie's opening scene defined her character; she was filing books and knocked over an entire set of bookcases (rather like dominoes) because she simply HAD to put that book where it needed to be. The entire catastrophic release of the Mummy happened because she simply HAD to have (as well as open and read) the Book of the Dead.
-- Her Trait came to her rescue because her Habit allowed her to be able to Read ancient Egyptian, allowing her to be able to not only find the correct book to dispel the Mummy, but know which spell was the right one to use. She conquered her neurosis when she allowed the book to be destroyed.

> Evie's brother Jonathan's personal neurosis was greed. His static trait was kleptomania. If it was small and shiny, he had to have it. His opening scene involved showing off to his sister his latest theft. Because of his habit for picking up shiny things, he never quite lost the object he stole – the key to the Book of the Dead.
-- His trait came to his rescue when he pick-pocketed the needed 'key' from the bad guys. However, he didn't conquer his neurosis. He walked out of that temple with a huge stash of gold.

> Rick' O'Connell's personal neurosis was that he was an outsider. He never quite fit in with whatever group he was with – even his fellow Americans. His solution to everything, his static trait was "fight it". He was constantly leaping into one fight after another. Evie met him while he was in jail for being in a brawl. In every scene involving an attack of some sort, he was the first one to dive into the fight.
-- His trait came to his rescue when he needed to go on a one-on-one battle with a supernatural creature without immediately dying. He conquered his neurosis when he allowed Evie to destroy the monster with a spell rather than trying to do it himself.

> Beni's personal neurosis was cowardice. His static trait was freezing in place and shivering. He ended up working for Imhotep, because he simply did not have the guts to run away.
-- His trait NEVER came to his rescue, and in fact destroyed him.

> Imhotep's (the Mummy) personal neurosis was love. He got into trouble – and became the Mummy - because he was in love with the pharaoh's concubine. Everything he did was to get his one true love back from the dead. His static trait was his single-minded focus on regaining his lost love – at any cost.
-- Because Evie resembled his beloved, his neurosis made him grab for Evie  -- which was his biggest mistake. If he had grabbed any other female, he would have gotten away with the resurrection of his beloved.

The movie CONSTANTINE is very much a "character-driven" story where a character's personality (and personal neuroses,) ruled the results of any given crisis.

>   Those that changed and adapted -- lived.
>   Those that couldn't -- died.

AND ~ Every character had a Static Trait, a Habit that outlined their individual neuroses.

  >  Constantine's static trait was chain-smoking.
  >  Angelica used a gun to fix all her problems.
  >  Balthazar, a half-demon, flipped a coin between his fingers.
  >  Gabrial, an angel half-breed, liked to pontificate on how very noble human-kind could be if their natural selfishness didn't get in the way.
  >  Beeman, John's buddy that supplied interesting toys and hard to find artifacts, collected bugs.
  >  Chas, a young cabby and John's other buddy, wanted to be an exorcist like John, so he was forever trying to follow John into dangerous situations.
  >  Father Hennessy, another of John's buddies, was an actual exorcist with a talent for sensing evil, though he couldn't actually see them the way John could, was an alcoholic.

If they faced and conquered their neuroses, their Static Trait changed – a visible sign of the change that had happened within the character.

Of course, only a few people in the whole movie fixed their issues and changed their static trait. The rest died. However, being a Horror movie, this was pretty much expected.

How to use this in Fiction…
Start with your character's personal neurosis and pick a small habit that shows their personal neurosis in action. This Habit should get them Into as much trouble as it gets them Out of trouble, and it should be the linchpin that either sets off or defuses the climactic scene.

Having a hard time finding your character's Personal Neurosis?
-- Try looking at your character's core Motivation. What obsessive habit would define this?

In Walt Disney's Beauty & the Beast
-- Gaston's motivation was his Selfishness in the form of Narcissism. "I deserve the best!" This was reflected in his static trait of always looking in the mirror. Even when hunting the Beast, he stopped to look at his own reflection.
-- Beast, in complete reverse of Gaston, utterly Refused to look into mirrors because his Original personal neurosis was exactly THE SAME as Gaston's: Narcissism.

They were BOTH obsessed with their APPEARANCE, but then, the movie's Premise was all about "Looking Beneath the Surface".

In Erotic Fiction...
-- The Static Trait should be Sexual in nature.

A woman who wears skimpy clothes.
A guy who wears tight jeans and/or leaves his shirt open to the navel.
Long Hair on either gender. This IS a sexual trait!
Fur, Leather, or shiny Plastic clothing on either gender.
An oral habit such as licking the lips, biting the bottom lip, chewing on pens, sucking on lollipops, or even smoking.
Physically Touching anyone they speak to.
Posing provocatively instead of merely sitting or standing.

For another example...
-- One of my Static Traits is redefining difficult concepts into simple terms. This comes from my obsession to write as clearly and concisely as I can, and is motivated by my personal neurosis of Avoiding Reality – by creating fantasy worlds real enough to hide in. (grin)

Enjoy!
The Static Trait is the small personal HABIT an individual character displays which reveals their personal Neurosis, their driving NEED, especially in stressful situations. This habitual or even ritual behavior acts as both their greatest source of trouble and the linchpin to their success. It's the individual character's "Accident Waiting to Happen".

DISCLAIMER: As with all my advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Looking for more of my Writing Tips & Tricks?
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:icon1st-hashirama-senju:
1st-Hashirama-Senju Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014

This is something new, I might try it sometime.

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:iconimiss2010:
Imiss2010 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2014
Is it ok to include 2 or multiple static traits? Or is all I need one?

For example, a girl with long hair and likes to touch everyone.
Or a woman who smokes and wears fur clothes. 
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2014  Professional Writer
Real people usually have more than one static trait. In fact, we often have up to 5 or more! However, fictional people usually only need one to define their character. Remember: If it doesn't affect the Characters or the Plot, it isn't needed in the story.
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:iconimiss2010:
Imiss2010 Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2014
For my erotic story, is it possible I can just pick a static trait for my character and not worry about creating a nerousis? 
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Professional Writer
Absolutely!
 -- Just remember that if you use a 'habitual' static trait in the story, you might need to come up with a Reason for why they developed that habit, and a way to either fix that Reason, or simply come to terms with it by the story's end.
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:iconimiss2010:
Imiss2010 Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2013
Is neurosis the same thing as the static trait?
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2013  Professional Writer
A neurosis is what causes a static (physical behavior) trait. It's not the trait itself.
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:iconimiss2010:
Imiss2010 Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2013
Did I do it right? 

> Evelyn's (Evie) personal neurosis was her obsession with sex. Her static trait had to do with wearing skimpy clothes. She wore them everywhere. Evie's opening scene defined her character; she was wearing skimpy clothes in front of guys because she simply HAD get sex. The entire catastrophic release of the Mummy happened because she simply HAD to have (wearing skimpy clothes to seduce some guy) sex inside the tomb.
-- Her Trait came to her rescue because her Habit allowed her to distract the mummy, allowing her to escape after sex with the mummy which wore him so he couldn't go after her. She conquered her neurosis when she achieved a great orgasm from the mummy and didn't try to get her clothes back and ran out naked.
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2013  Professional Writer
> Evelyn's (Evie) personal neurosis was her obsession with sex. Her static trait had to do with wearing skimpy clothes. She wore them everywhere. Evie's opening scene defined her character; she was wearing skimpy clothes in front of guys because she simply HAD get sex. The entire catastrophic release of the Mummy happened because she simply HAD to have (wearing skimpy clothes to seduce some guy) sex inside the tomb.
-- Her Trait came to her rescue because her Habit allowed her to distract the mummy, allowing her to escape after sex with the mummy which wore him so he couldn't go after her.

THIS is Perfect! (And cute too!)
 -- However, in order to conquer her neurosis; her obsession with sex, she needs to STOP being obsessed with sex.

To do this, you need to consider WHY Evie is obsessed with sex.
 -- That core issue hiding under her obsession is 1) what she needs to discover, and 2) conquer.

For example!
 -- According to my research, (and talking to my girlfriends,) most people obsessed with sex aren't actually looking for Sex, per se. They're looking for Affection; for someone to Love them Emotionally. They're simply using sex to get the only form of affection they think is available to them, not realizing that sex isn't always 'affectionate' but a simple physical release, like going to the toilet. This tends to generate extreme disappointment, frequent broken hearts, and the impression that they are worthy of real Love.

So! For Evie to conquer her neurosis, someone (the Mummy?) would have to declare that they were In Love with her, then go out of their way to prove to her that she's actually worthy of being loved.
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:iconimiss2010:
Imiss2010 Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013
Thank you, I was hoping you would like it. If someone's motivation was being horny, then would their neurosis be LUST? Is it always lust? Or something else? Like what you said about wanting affection? What is the name of neurosis for wanting affection? Can you make up any kind of neurosis from their motivation?

Like for example, so and so's motivation is to become rich, but their neurosis was reading? Does that make sence? 
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