How To Create Believable Character Change

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Picture by Bensik lmeri

Have you ever met Supermom? You know, the mom who knows everything about being mom of the year and makes you look like you belong at amateur week?

Yeah. I’ve met her too. She is the one who I sweat bullets over becoming like, only to fall miserably on my face.

Face plant. That’s me.

If I were to take apart her journey, she probably didn’t get her Supermom status over night. There had to be some smaller steps along the way. No one can be that amazing instantly.

In fact, I bet she even failed at some time or another. Whew, that makes me feel a bit better.

Real life teaches us that talent and experience blend together to create change or growth in our lives. Our characters should grow the same way if their change is to be believable.

How To Create Believable Character Change:

*Define the clear start and end points. To show our character’s change we must identify where they are starting and ending. Then the midpoints are more easily defined.

*Identify small growth steps between the beginning and end points. People change in baby steps. The person who is terrified of water, won’t all of the sudden be an expert swimmer without first getting in the water and practicing.

*Identify small failures and obstacles that they overcome before complete transformation. If a character is not challenged as they reach for the end result, the reader does not value the change and it will make no impact on their lives as they read.

Example:

Lily struggles to trust anyone to do some of the homework in their group assignments. She can’t afford to get anything less than an “A”.

Here is what I might do to plot the change:

Start point– Lily will not let anyone else take home project work.

Midpoint– Lily lets someone take home project work, but checks it and makes changes before turning it in.

End Point– Lily lets someone else take home project work and trusts them enough to turn it in without checking their work.

Failures/Obstacles- Lily loses points because she did all of the work herself on the first project, Lily discovers she doesn’t know everything- changes something incorrectly on the project, and another one could be that her team mates resent her for taking control.

This is a simple example of how this might work. Think through the progression of how a character changes in your story. Make sure it is a logical progression and has baby steps.

Marlin in Finding Nemo is one of my favorite character change examples.

What is one of your favorite character changes in a book or movie?

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