It’s a good question. One I have heard many times in my life. Usually after somebody does something no one approves of. Yet, regardless of the situation, the question remains the same. Do people change?
The answer is simple – yes. Yes, people are changing all the time. I know most disagree with this statement. They believe people can’t or won’t change.
It’s a hardcore view of people and life. It’s also inaccurate. I use myself as an example. I am nothing like I was at sixteen. Nor at twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty. I have changed a great deal over time. Some good, some bad. Yet change I have.
Is it a good thing that people actually do change? Do we accept someone is an alcoholic or drug addict and will never stop? Or do we acknowledge the fact that one day they will stop?
Such questions are a large part of a writer’s dilemma when developing characters. In short fiction, your characters are often fully developed for that particular story and the question is moot. However, in longer fiction, where the story evolves over a long period of time, the question becomes extremely important.
Why? Well, let’s take two examples. The first is a thriller evolving over a single week. In the beginning the person is a normal person with the standard worries in life. As the week progresses however, they find themselves under a cyber-attack which begins to affect their life. Their attitude changes as the attacker continues each day to disrupt and destroy their life. Each day brings new misery, and the character begins to change to fight it. As they change to fight the attacks, what once worried them is no longer a concern and the things they said they would never do have become routine.
By the time the story wraps up, the character has completely changed. Has morphed into an entirely new person with a completely different outlook on life which in turn changes the way they react to situations.
The second example is a longer story. It is an epic beginning with the main characters as children and finishing in their old age. Do you write the characters as children and let them grow and change as the seasons of their life turn them into the adults they become? And as adults do they change as they get older and experience life in all of its beauty and tragedy?
Tragedy has a way of changing us much quicker than joy. Without the downs we can never fully appreciate the high points.
But what is a tragedy to one character is nothing to another. It is all in how you decide to develop your character. Of course, several factors decide how they change and why. The most basic is the time frame the story is set. A man who is born and raised in Virgina in eighteen nineteen thinks far differently than a man born and raised in Los Angeles in the present. Same for a woman. Then there is race, color, and ethnicity to consider. A white woman born and raised in present day Moscow does not think like a Hispanic woman born and raised in Utah.
These factors also determine how a person changes as they go through a story. Perhaps your story centers around a certain action. Your story is told from the viewpoint of five different people as they witness a car bombing inside the United States.
Such an action changes people. Consider those who grew up with car bombings as a weekly occurrence. An example would be Ireland during their bid for independence or Israel since it was created. Many places still have car bombings occurring, yet they no longer make the news since they are so common in the regions they happen. One more car bombing doesn’t change their way of life.
But what if the car bombing happened in some simple place forgotten by most of America. On a downtown street in a small town which is recovering from the financial hardships of Covid-19.
What if you witnessed it? What if you were injured by the blast? Would such an event in your life change you? I doubt few of you would remain the same afterwards. I surely wouldn’t.
So how do write such change in a character? How much do you change the characters as they progress past the bombing and return to their so-called normal life? What do they do? And why? And how? Let your mind contemplate the good and the bad and the awful and the wonderful.
Yes, I said wonderful. Wonderful things can come from the worst tragedies man can create. Would one of your characters become bitter and filled with hate? Would one yearn for revenge? Would one look inside themselves and seek to know the truth behind the destruction? Would any of them forgive their attackers?
How you write how your character changes and evolves is a direct reflection upon your own creativity. Will you allow your characters to change as the story progresses if it is needed or will you have them remain the same? In the end, it is your decision. So, what’s it going to be?
I’m Ross, the Editor-in-Chief of The Pyrateheart Press and I’m out.