Character Growth
Today, I was looking at forums, and saw someone ask a pretty important question.

It's no doubt that your character grows. It should be natural for it to happen. You should put your character in so many different situations, that they naturally just grow. Of course, it's the publishing biz, and nothing, absolutely nothing, is as easy as "natural."

So, first you have to define your character. Let's take my MC, Bryce, as an example.

The first chapter opens up, and you're introduced to this...

womanizing, arrogant prick.

Before you can hate the boy too much, I put him through a pretty brutal situation. His mother is sprawled across the kitchen floor -- lifeless in her own pool of blood. His father had just been shot, but wasn't dead. Instead, his father sat on his knees suffering from the pain of the wound. He can't speak, and the only sounds made are the gargle of his own blood.

It's tragic. It's something meant to be so terrible, it'd stick with him for the rest of his life, but of course, I wanted to paint out his character.

The demon who held the gun that put the bullets through his parents puts the cold metal into his palm.

"Humans, interesting to say the least. Will you use the last bullet to put your father out of his own misery? Or, will you turn the gun on me?"

So there's the decision. Shows two completely different personalities. Compassionate, caring, considerate versus resentful, vengeful, and violent.

Bryce chooses to turn the gun on the demon, and that decision, forever shaped him. Without family, without a real committed relationship, and without any dreams -- he sacrifices his life to gain the power to kill this demon to extract revenge for his parents' death (of course, when he turned the gun to the demon, he didn't kill her).

Throughout the book, he'll have a couple more situations where he could help someone or get revenge, and each time he chooses the route of revenge.

It isn't until many bad decisions later, that he realizes revenge isn't everything to life. That killing the demon won't bring his parents back, and a saved life is more important than anything else in the world.

The growth is important, not only because it makes the character more likable. The entire book Bryce is struggling with his past, not his parents death, but the fact that he is the devil. As the story builds, he lives his life just like the Devil once had. Hatred and revenge fueled his every move, which eventually caused the fallen angel to turn into the devil. Once Bryce learns the value of a life, and that it is more important than getting revenge, it's his first shining hope that he won't become the one thing he's been fighting against: evil.

Now, there are a few things about a character's growth that you should take into account.

When does the character finally grow?

Let's put the book into four quarters. If your character acts one way 25% of the book, then goes through dramatic changes after the first quarter, and acts "changed and enlightened" the other 75%, it's not going to be obvious growth.

If your character acts one way half way through the book, and the enlightened way the other half, it means you resolved your plot way too early, honestly.

Personally, I think your character should change 75% through the book, while his change is the reason whatever major plot point was resolved.

How do you personally like the character's change to come through?

Anyone that knows me knows I'm a passionate person. And I like drama (at least.. in books). I think a character's growth should be BIG. Personally, I mapped mine out like this:

  • Define the character.
  • What must change in order for the character to achieve his final goal?
  • Name three HARD decisions the character must go through before his growth happens. What all does he lose before he realizes he must change?
  • How is he ultimately rewarded when he does change?
3 Responses
  1. Melanie Says:

    This is a wonderful post! and damn if I don't want to read your book. Love the story/premise and the character development involved.

  2. NiaRaie Says:

    This is a great post and it definitely helps my issue on AW. I think I've written my book with the whole 75%/25% thing, so it looks like our thought processes are similar. I never thought of 3 Hard decisions for my character to go through, so I'll have to look into that.

  3. Thanks for the comments. =)

    As for the 3 hard decisions, it's not some literary thing set it stone, more of a guideline to help you.

    One of my biggest pet peeves in a story is a character who the author describes one way, yet their actions never prove the character to be like that. For example, if I'm reading about an incredibly smart person, yet the character never shows me he's smart -- I'm likely to throw the book down.

    Same with flaws. If your character has the one flaw that has to change before the conflict can get resolved, then you have to show us situations where he was forced to chose. If he goes with the flaw a couple times, consequences occur, then we know that the character really is who you say he is.

    But, no, three is not "the" number, it's just a good number. Not too much, not too little. Don't feel bad for using two if that's what works for your story.

    Best of luck. =)

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