Character change, or in fancy terminology…character arc. This refers to all the changes and developments in your character over the course of your story. Is it easy? Nope. Developing a character takes time and skill but is so worth the effort in the end. Getting your character to the point of success is also the journey you take as a writer. Hard work and effort to reach your goals. Bam.
Character development is one of those buzz words that we all talk about, but few (me) fully understand what it is. That is why I am writing this post. I need to learn the truth behind the terms just like you do. In the past we would start with a single person. Using ourselves if it helped. Now, we listed all the traits of that solitary person to create a marvelous character. Well, Mr. Trudy believes there is a better way. First…
Coffee. Good morning friends! How are we all doing this fine day? I almost feel like a fully functioning individual this morning. Shocking, I know. I already had a diet friendly breakfast of cottage cheese with diced peaches and, of course, coffee. Come on, let’s go fill that sad, empty cuppa and grab yourself a nibble.
Snacks are in the upper cabinet to the right of the fridge. I think I have some granola bars in there. Help yourself. Otherwise, rifle through your friends’ lunch in the fridge. I’m sure there are some left over yummies from that non-existent New Year’s Eve party no one got to go to. Grab what you can and meet me out on the reading rug with your copy of The Anatomy of Story by John Trudy. Yes, you should buy a copy. Why? Cuz it would be rude not to. Just like you should be buying my books. Geesh, I work hard at helping entertain and educate you, the least you could do is buy my books, to help me pay for this blasted computer. Or not, It’s up to you. ON WITH THE SHOW! Oh, speaking of show- there is popcorn in the cabinet above the microwave! Enjoy.
Okay, so Mr. Trudy wanted us to try something new and that is–
The Self Expressed as a Character
The whosie-whatsit? Um, this thingamagig is the process of getting an idea of what the self is. Once again, wha?
What is the purpose of the self in storytelling?
That is the thing that changes. Characters are fictional selves being used to show how each person is unique in numerous ways but will always remain human. We put our characters into action to show how a person can live and grow over the span of your story. It’s the fantastical telling of reality. Well, their reality. The one stuck in your head screaming to get out.
Let’s look at some of Mr. Trudy’s examples and see if he can get through this thick head of mine and teach me something. Here’s hoping.
#1. A single unit of personality governed internally with and iron hand.
^ This is the character who has been separated from others but is desperately searching for their ‘destiny.’ They were born to do this. This plot line is common in myth-based stories.
#2. A single unit comprised of many often-conflicting needs and desires.
^ The character has a powerful urge to connect with others. In some cases, to a point of containing another. These tend to fall into drama-based stories.
#3. A series of roles a character plays based on what society demands at the time.
^ Examples: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Prince and the Pauper. Twain emphasized the power of the roles we play and how society has a way of dictating them.
#4. A loose collection of images, so unstable, porous, malleable, weak, and lacking in integrity they can change into something entirely different.
^ We see this in horror-based books. Vampires, cat people, and my favorite, shifters.
Key Point: Character change doesn’t happen at the end of the story. It happens at the beginning. More precisely, it is made possible at the beginning by how you set it up.
Key Point: Don’t think of your MC as a fixed and complete character whom you decide to draft a story about. Think of them as a range of change, a list of possibilities, from line one. You must start with an idea, or a list of ideas, on how your hero will change over the course of your storyline. You can’t make them change in the last chapter. We, as people, change over time, and so should your character.
The smaller the range the less interesting your characters and story will be. Your character must complete the process of change by going through obstacles to get there. They have to learn their weaknesses and how to change them. They must stand up to their fears and over come them.
Think about stories you already know. The story of the poor man working hard to become rich and powerful. The pauper to a king. The ugly duckling turning into the swan as they grow up. It takes time and that time is the story.
Up next, we will look at your character’s self-knowledge and beliefs. Geesh, kinda feels like character therapy up in here.
Polish your sparkle and keep twirling.
Find joy. Be joy. Enjoy.
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