Monday, November 3, 2008

Change

How do your characters react to change? How do they face the unexpected? How long does it take them to adjust, and how hard do they fight the change along the way?

I ask this now because the software is in flux over at the Books And Writer's Community today, and there is no telling at present if the changes are permanent or the accident of some programmer who forgot to drink his morning coffee and accidentally pushed the RED nuclear detonation button.

My observation of people is that, on the whole, people react better to change when (1) they expect it and (2) they have some say in what's going to happen - even if their suggestions aren't taken, people like to feel that they've been heard.

Changes are threatening. They move people out of their comfort zones. Unexpected changes, especially, tend to throw people off. People like the world to be predictable – no matter how unrealistic this desire.

Some people adapt smoothly, some with anger, some with rejection of the new status quo. Most people come around eventually, if they are invested enough in whatever it was that changed.

Change is certainly something that often gets our characters off their duffs. It is a change in the status quo, or a threat of some sort, that spurs characters into action at the beginning of the story. It's the Call to Adventure.

What change spurs your character into action? How hard does your character fight against that call? What actions do they take to Refuse the Call? Certainly, if the change or call is insignificant enough, characters may just turn their back. Look at your story. Is the call something that might really spur the character into action? Or are they just moving along because you want them to?

Is your character someone who embraces change? This presents a different sort of challenge as a writer. If your character is someone who rushes off to join every new fad, try every new product, explore every new avenue, then how do you create the tension and conflict necessary to move them through your story? What changes are threatening enough for them to Refuse the Call? Or, if they don't refuse but go rushing in headlong, what is important enough about that goal to make them fail to hesitate and consider the risks? Or how do you show your readers how foolhardy that headlong rush is, and create tension that way? How do you make the character believable?

So, take a few minutes today to consider your reactions to change and how your own emotions related to change relate to your characters. Are they like you or different? How hard do they fight against change? And how, in the end, do they ultimately embrace the change and move into their adventure?

Good luck!

2 comments:

Sheila Lamb said...

Hmm...my main character changes because she is forced to...in book 1 she is coerced into an arranged marriage as a peace treaty to a war...book 2...she leaves home because creepy old guy (needs much Maass-inspired villianous filling out) blocks her advancement and wants to take her ideas for himself...

Jenny Graman Meyer said...

Sheila,
So, when your main character is "forced" to change, what were her options? What made this her only path? And how does her reaction to this coersion help illuminate her character to your readers?
In book 2, how has she changed? What makes her reaction to leaving or staying with creepy old guy different from when she married him? (Is creepy old guy her husband?)
Change and how people (real and fictional) react to it is such an interesting concept, don't you think?