Need help with characterization and character growth in your fiction? Listen to Nancy Kress, Writer’s Digest Fiction columnist, in her book, Dynamic Characters:
You the novelist not only have to know who your protagonist is, you also have to know who he becomes. . . .
- Not all protagonists need to change. Exempt are the protagonists of satires, series action novels, outrageous romps and books whose point is that human beings are hopelessly stuck.
- If your character does change, give us evidence beforehand that he is capable of being more than he is.
- Dramatize the moment of change through what he does, not just says or thinks. . . .
This is anonymous, and very old:
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes destiny.
Although probably written to apply to real people rather than fictional ones, the verse nonetheless encapsulates principles of character change:
- Your character should demonstrate qualities that foreshadow change (thoughts and/or words).
- He should be pressured by story events into behaving differently (actions, which make up plot).
- The new behavior should be validated for us so we know it is now part of him (character).
- And then he can go on, a changed man, to his destiny.
For more characterization tips and instruction, check out Nancy Kress’s Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated.