Monday, November 8, 2010

Character Change

I prepared this post while deep into my NaNoWriMo novel. I'm writing by the seat of my pants, going forward, not glancing back. I have a vague idea about where it'll end and I already wrote several chapters for the second half of the book.

But this post has give me a breather and allowed me step back and examine my characters. Maybe the ideas will be useful to you in your writing.

I asked:
Do characters always change for the better?
Do they mature?
Must they change? In many plot driven novels they don't.
Do they change and then go right back to where they started?

I haven't been writing with an eye for character change, but it's happening anyway. I'm simply moving the story forward. When I know my characters, I can go back and modify their dialogue and mannerisms and all that.

My female protag is growing a backbone, but my male protag isn't changing all that much. He's learning to be self sufficient in a practical way, but he isn't making psychological leaps.

One supporting character went mad in an Ophelia-like way (cool, I just thought of that connection), another became a zombie, but more importantly, before that, he became more self sacrificing and mature.

I'm still stuck on the fourth supporting character and he's making it impossible to get my story where I want it. He's too capable and good. It's not that I don't want to kill him off (he must be eliminated), but it must be logical.

So, there you go. If you're a semi-panster, sorta-kinda mapping out your characters' changes when you are maybe 20k into the novel might be useful. I was just trying to write a blog post and this ten minute exercise has cleared up some things for me. :)

Now, off to kill a character...


Maria Zannini said...

Do you ever wonder what people think when we mumble to ourselves. "Okay, now to kill off so and so."


PS Even good and capable people can be a victim of an accident. Sometimes they even create their own accidents and get tangled in the web.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Maria, is that why people are avoiding me?

Aha! An accident! I love it. I think you just got me unstuck. Thanks. :)

Medeia Sharif said...

It's strange, but I haven't killed off a character in years. Hmmm....maybe I should.

I also wonder about my characters changing, if it comes naturally or if the pace of their changing is right. Currently I'm wondering if my MC is changing enough.


Those are really great questions. And I loove that your characters is going mad in an Ophelia kind of way. She is such a fantastic creation. Sounds like your ms is going great! Thanks for sharing and posting.

Amie Kaufman said...

Eep, death to a character!

I don't think people need to change in a huge-psychological-journey kind of a way, but Nathan Bransford once said on his blog that they need to have a goal, and give something up to get it. I think that's a really interesting way of thinking about how they change.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

@ Medeia ~Oops, did I make you start rethinking where your novel's going? :p Hey, what's a bigger character change than death? Then again, killing your MC usually grinds the whole thing to a stop. So maybe not.

@Samuel ~Thanks so much!

@Amie ~Ooo, thanks! I'm jotting that advice down on a sticky note and taking it along to my mini-write in at my friend's house today. I knew that, but lost sight of it.

karabu said...

I hadn't thought about killing off any of my characters. I wonder if I should? I know some will be harmed a great deal. . .
I guess i won't know for sure until I get a little deeper into it.
Glad you got some stuff worked out! Now I just gotta catch up to your awesome word count.

Abby Minard said...

I think a lot of characters go through different types of changes in a story, which is good. They shouldn't be all going through the smae thing, you know? I killed off a character in the beginning- be he was the catalist pretty much. And then I semi-sort of fake killed a character, and then now I'm almost ready to kill him for real this time. Makes me sad, but it has to be done. I did save a character's life that I was going to kill, but didn't feel right. My crit partner still thinks he should have died, but I just can't see it.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Kara, kill a character for sure! How about a mysterious murder to complicate things? And it's the only guy who knows how to run the oxygen thingy and ... no, that might create more problems than you need.

Abby, that's true, there are lots of kinds of changes.
And it is hard to know whom to kill. I struggled with that in the ending of a short story and kept rewriting the ending. I ended up killing them.

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