C is for Character Change

BLAST_CIt’s appropriate that I got letter “C” since Character Change is something I frequently write about on this blog. That’s because it is so crucial! I think it might even be the most important part of a good story. So, with that in mind, let’s launch this baby!

3 Tips for Writing Character Change

  • Don’t make your protagonist too perfect or they won’t have a need to change.

  • Consider who your hero must be to win in Act III, and make sure they are the opposite of that in Act I.

  • Character Change can’t come out of nowhere! The hero has to be foiled by his imperfect self all through Act II, so that when he is faced with his failings at the Crisis moment, he’s motivated to change.

2 Examples of Great Character Arcs

Have you guys read RED RISING by Pierce Brown? It’s an awesome YA sci-fi novel that takes place on the planet Mars, and is an excellent example of a hero with a flaw that gets in his way, but the flaw is not obvious so neither the readers nor the hero recognize it’s a problem until the end – when he must overcome it to win!

Another great example is the film ALIEN. Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley’s flaw doesn’t necessarily seem like one at first – she is a stickler for protocol and trusts her superiors. But, of course, by the crisis moment both the audience and Ripley realize that this is exactly why she is in such a pickle, and it’s time Ripley breaks some rules and disobeys or she will die!

1 Resource for more help

Ha! Just one? I have like dozens! Okay, well, if I had to direct you to one it would be “Reading For Writers 101: Character Change Part 2”. Of course, there is also “Character Change Part 1” and this post about “Unforgettable Endings” of which the main component is Character Change. There’s also “How to Story Edit Using the ‘Save The Cat’ Beats,” which is basically a checklist to make sure your hero changes. And there’s even more suggestions in the “Posts You Might Like” section below.

Well, that should give you lots to read. A good thing since space missions are notoriously long – reading material is a must!


Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

26 thoughts on “C is for Character Change”

  1. I have a novel that I started for nanowrimo, that could use some serious editing and your blog inspires me to get it out and work on it again.

    I am learning so much during the A to Z challenge by visiting other bloggers efforts.

    1. That’s great! I find reading about writing craft helps reinvigorate my old projects as well. There’s always a tip that makes me go, “Oh! That’s what’s why it’s not working.” And I return to it with renewed glee. 🙂

  2. Great post and great advice! Yes, protagonists must have flaws because we have to be able to relate to them. We all have flaws that need to change in order to grow to our fullest potential and so do characters. Great topic, character change. You’re so right: it’s crucial for good story-telling. I’m so glad I found your blog! I’ll be coming back on a regular basis. Happy A-Zing…
    Michele at Angels Bark

  3. I’m loving these! Alien is a very good example to use here, I think.

    I’m up to you guys on the list and calling it a day on my “official” visits for Friday. Starting with the blogs right after you tomorrow. Though I am sure I’ll be back before April is out.

    Happy A to Z, and good that y’all are getting some comments.

    1. Thanks, Gene’O! The A to Z Challenge has been a wild ride so far – tons of comments, tons of great blogs visited, but not enough time! Glad you stopped by for a blog visit today, and Happy A to Z to you too!

  4. I think the change can be rapid if explainable by some event though (tragic or happy 🙂 )?

    Plus – if the character grows within a series of books, the change can be pretty obvious and natural 😀

    Great tips! thanks 🙂

    1. Thanks, Emilia! As for rapid change, it depends on the length of one’s story. In a short story, absolutely. But in a novel, you need the character to fight against the change so there’s enough conflict to sustain 300 pages! 🙂

  5. A few years ago, I read a story where the MC was perfect and that was his flaw because, when he failed, he completely crumbled and was presented with a challenge he couldn’t easily solved. It was an interesting thing to see. I guess, if done right, you can make perfect a flaw.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee’s Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  6. This is a really good reminder. I especially like the check in #2. I’ll have to have a look at my current WIP and shop it by reverse-checking character change. Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome! Glad you found the post helpful! I put my WIPs through these tips too, at every stage of the writing, to strengthen the change and make sure I haven’t lost sight of it.

  7. Hi Heather! I have not read Red Rising, but I will add it to my list. I find the timing of character change can be quite tricky, so it’s nice to have some good models!

  8. Hi there – Great advice! I plan to revisit these posts for NaNoWriMo. I’ve always been a wannabe writer so I think I’ll use that month (November?) to see if I can make it happen. 🙂

  9. Character change is important and I think that applies to supporting characters too. I’ve often had a problem with the minor players, as it were. Either I didn’t gel with them or they were causing havoc for the plot. I realised, in most cases, this is because they hadn’t changed and were feeling stuck – neglected almost!

We love comments and questions.

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