Thursday, February 12, 2009

Internal Character Transformations

As those of you who follow my blog will know, my character is whiny. I've been trying to think of a way to make her less whiny and I have figured it out.

She's going to consciously decide to not be whiny. This will happen about 8k in, which hopefully isn't too far along, but it's at the right moment. I've also added some other scenes before that point where she isn't feeling sorry for herself.

So this brings me to the topic of internal character transformations. An external transformation would be working out or learning how to fight with a sword, but an internal one is when a character slays his/her internal dragons through internal dialog. As readers we get to learn about their internal strength and reflect upon the reasons why he or she would want to change. It creates a character to look up to, while still showing them as vulnerable...point in case, they needed the change.

This isn't the only epiphany that my protagonist is going to encounter. This is just the first one. Hailey has many changes and opportunities for growth throughout the novel, even though this is very classic epic fantasy.

One thing that is important is that while we want to read about flawed characters, we shouldn't want to strangle the protagonist. That's kinda counterproductive to the whole "page turner" concept. Of course, this plays on the sympathetic characters thing.

An internal transformation doesn't always have to be happy or inspiring. Sometimes a character can learn something hard about the world (for example, life is often not fair and there is bad intentions in the hearts of many people). Or they can have an internal transformation that reshapes their previous transformation (it might not be fair, but some people do try to be--there is bad in people, but there is good too).

Sometimes it can be scary to come to a realization about the world or yourself and at other times it can be refreshing. This adds depth and dimension to the characters and another level for your readers to relate to.

Think back to a book that you have enjoyed. What about the characters or the plot line pulled you in? Most often it is a dynamic character, one that actively seeks to make themselves better, that pulls us in.

If you write novels, what sorts of internal transformations do you characters go through? If you read them, what was your most memorable transformation?

8 tidbits:

Cavan said...

Generally, my characters change as a result of the events of the story, though I don't think I've ever actually made them aware of the changes going on within them at the time. I'm interested to see how having your character come to a conscious realization works out. Let us know!

Anonymous said...

In my most recent story, two of the characters have a bit of a rivalry going. By the end, however, they come to respect each other and even become friends.

stu said...

This could even bring secondary benefits, in the form of something to initially distract your main character from lessons that need to be learned later.

Lauren said...

@cavan- The conciously deciding to stop being whiney really is the only epiphany that Hailey is aware of. The others are going to be a bit more subtle, but my main charactor is very self-aware and introverted so she lends herself to this.

@writer- That's great that they ended up over coming their differences. I bet it made for great tension when they first started having to work together.

@stu- Actually one of the other character transformations will be sort of like that. She becomes kind of jaded and then has to level out.

The Blonde Duck said...

One of mine goes from being scared that she's weak and wimpy to purposely being strong.

LoveRundle said...

I find I have a lot or problems with my characters just being boring in the first draft. Whiny doesn't sound so bad next to boring. ^_^ Yeah for rewrites, right?

Sounds like you have it under control.

Lauren said...

@Duck- My character has a similar growth arc, but she isn't very graceful. And she also just sort of get swept up by the events verses being proactive in the situation. I have fixed the whiney. The next thing I need to do is add a subplot that allows her to solve something, which I think that I have.

@Christina- I don't know. You can tack character traits onto a boring character. Also, my story is in first person so I think that it makes it even more important for the character to be compelling.

Lucas Darr said...

In my latest work in progress, my character is crazy. By the end of the book, she finds some semblance of sanity through redemption.

I wonder how long it will take reader to go, "um, this poor person is nanners?"

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