Monday, July 13, 2015

How Does Your Main Character Change?

One of the things I look for in a submission is character growth and development. In many cases, when we talk about character development, we often only look at the depth an author goes into when creating a truly three dimensional character. While this is certainly important, there is another issue we need to see. How does the character grow throughout the novel?

The character that starts the story should not be entirely the same when we close the book at the end. The experiences the author goes through, the conflicts that the character has to overcome need to make some significant changes in the character. What did the character learn through each of these adventures?

When the hero meets the heroine for the first time, we need to see that new character start to emerge. Maybe, up until now, the hero has only thought of himself. It might be work or it might be a past experience, but this guy has not really "seen" anyone else. But now, the heroine is bringing something out inside of the hero. The hero should now struggle, at least a little, with these "new feelings and thoughts." As they progress through the novel, we see those slight changes taking shape in the "new hero."

The problem with stories where that growth does not appear is significant. The readers are left with a big "so what?" We are left with the thought that things probably will not last with the hero and heroine. These are the same characters who, at the beginning of the story either didn't know each other, or maybe even disliked each other. The only thing that has changed is that they are now "together". But will that be enough? Probably not.

Now, I do know a lot of writers think they are showing these changes. You tell me this during pitch sessions. You tell us this is a story of how we over-come obstacles. But the thing that is missing is the showing it in the story. This cannot simply be an implied message in your story. The changes have to be an integral part of the plot and the character development.

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