Change. The tempting goal we strive for every day. I’m sure you can think of five things you would like to change about your life off the top of your head. (I know I can.) You may even be making steps toward those goals by changing how you eat, spend your money, and vote. But change is HARD.
That is why I love stories.
I can read about how others have succeeded* in changing themselves or their environments. The stories I most like to hear are about characters who experience a change in themselves. I feel like I get all the benefit of the main character’s hard-won knowledge without any of the effort.
And here for your pleasure is my advice on how to plot character change:
1. Present character with a choice and have them choose ‘incorrectly’. 2. Have them gain information and/or insight. (Preferably through action) 3. Present character with a similar choice.
Don’t believe me? Here are two examples.
Guardians of the Galaxy:
1. Peter’s dying mother asks for his hand. He runs away in fear. 2. Peter meets allies that prove themselves trustworthy. This is cemented by Groot’s sacrifice for the team as the spaceship crashes. 3. While Peter holds the deadly infinity stone, Gators asks for his hand. He takes it and is able to survive the threat and defeat the villain.
We see that Peter has matured because he doesn’t try to face his problems alone.
Pride and Prejudice:
1. Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, she turns him down because though he is wealthy, he insulted her and her family, and meddled in the romance between his friend and her older sister. 2. Elizabeth learns that Mr. Darcy is nice to his family and friends and just awkward to new people. He takes actions to help save her younger sister from a disastrous marriage. He withdraws his objections to his friend about his romance with Elizabeth’s older sister. 3. Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth (again) and she accepts now that she has a more complete and positive view of him.
We see that Elizabeth has matured after she learns that people are often different than they first appear.
I am sure you can think of how this can apply to your favorite story of character change. I am off to try to practice what I preach as I write the ending of my novel.
*or failed, as in every tragedy.