Monday, July 1, 2013

Characters Who Change Their Course

Okay, so I've been on the lecture circuit for a while now. I've taught many writing classes, and I've spoken to numerous book clubs and writer's groups. The thing I love most about doing these kinds of things is that I--me, myself--always learns something new.

Go figure!

So last week, I went to talk about query letters to a local writing group, Riveting Writers, and as we were talking, I said something like, "Isn't that what characters do? Change their course?"

And I had this little a-ha! moment. In all my beating out and revising and characterizing, I've never quite thought of my characters this way. But truly, every novel has a character who is choosing to change their course.

They're not coerced into changing their course. They're not dragged. It doesn't just mysteriously happen through plot devices, no matter how brilliant.

We love characters who choose to change their course.

So today, I'm renewing my effort to create and write characters who change their course.

Have you thought about your characters like that before? Are they changing their own course?

15 comments:

JeffO said...

I hope so! Actually, my first 'novel', my trunked NaNo, had a character who *didn't* change, and that, for me, was part of the whole point of it. His failure to change, his failure to grow and learn ultimately led him to a very bad place. It was ending on a very down note. The thing is, I don't know if I could *force* him to change or not, and I don't know if I'll ever revisit that story.

Angela Brown said...

Change is part of the essence of the novel, especially the ride readers take with the character. We want to start one particular place with a character and hope to end the fun and danger in a different place, where a change, sometimes for the good, sometimes, not, has taken place.

What is there when there is no change?

And characters even change their course from the meticulously drawn plot some writers weave. That can lead to some extra editing but boy can it bring extra adventure to the novel as well.

mshatch said...

That's been the aim of every book I've written, for my characters to change, evolve into someone a little better, a little stronger.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Almost all of them.

SA Larsenッ said...

Yes, we love characters who makes those decisions. I think watching them work it all out helps us with our own daily struggles, makes us feel not so alone. These characters have underlining courage, which is always fascinating to watch grow.

Martina at Adventures in YA Publishing said...

That's when I know a character is working--he or she suddenly decides to do something other than what I'd planned. One of the character in my upcoming novel started off as a ficelle, and then refused to get out of the book. I had to add a whole storyline to accommodate him, and he turned out to be one of my favorite characters.

I love the idea of changing course. It works on multiple levels: the character who comes to life and resists what the author wants, but also the character who takes charge of her own destiny in response to conflict and becomes the heroine of her own journey. A character who makes,things happen instead of a character to whom things happen.

Thanks for the food for thought, Elana!

Jessie Humphries said...

I had my own little aha moment just now! I'm about to write a huge change of course scene! YESSS! I'm pumped. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

So agree that great characters do change through the story. There has to be changes for the character to grow as a character. Thanks for reminding us to watch for this.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I had something like that happen before. It can be both fun and frustrating.

ChristaCarol Jones said...

Totally! I think all main characters tend to change their course by the end of the book (good stories, anyway), even if it's a minimal change. For my character, her change is huge lol. It's been awhile, Elana!I just released my debut YA novel :) Looks like you're doing just as awesome as ever!

Melody said...

Brilliant, Elana! I'd never thought of it this way, but I think you've hit it! We like characters that do things, characters that don't want to live in their boring and comfortable (or something not boring but very miserable) lives anymore and are willing to do something to change it. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I had one change his course in my third book and next thing I knew, he went from one small scene to a major secondary character.

Nicole said...

Yes, that's what it's all about. That dynamic aspect is what makes characters so interesting to read and write.

Carol Riggs said...

Hey, good observation! It SHOULD be a choosing, rather than the character passively being shoved around by circumstances and just reacting. Hmm. Gotta check my own stories now...

Nichole Giles said...

This is probably my biggest problem. I sometimes can't keep up! But getting to know my characters well helps me understand why they act the way they do or make certain choices. So yeah. Great point!

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