Going Through Changes

I started a new job April 27 and as I was driving home from work the first Friday, reflecting on the week’s training, the thought occurred to me: I’m not a kid anymore.

It was a happy thought, triggered by the realization that I’m, for the most part, free of the obsessive worry to please that plagued me in younger years. I have confidence. Or at least far more than I used to

I attribute this change to a myriad of ongoing experiences. Running my own business has shown me that I’m competent in a variety of areas. Writing has given me a safe place to vent and to explore, while providing a sense of fulfillment that makes “job satisfaction” less critical to me. I want to do well at work, because that’s my personality type, but my job is a job, not my life. Aging itself, which has lent perspective about what to concern myself about.

This “not a kid anymore” strain of thought was lovely and apropos as it occurred on the eve of my 38th birthday and coincided with the realizations my main character has made lately.

I’m fascinated by how changes in our personalities or general approach to life can sneak up on us, catching us almost unawares—like until we’re put into a position where our personality/beliefs, etc are tested, we’d never know they’d deviated.

While my change in self-perception/outlook was positive, sometimes these sneaking deviations from formerly held views and approaches to life are negative. The person who wakes up on his 30th wedding anniversary and realizes he doesn’t love his spouse (or that she has never loved him). The person of religious faith who, after years of devotion, worries that their faith is baseless. The fifty-year-old who realizes now that their children are fully grown that they’d made the same serious mistakes raising them that their own parents did . . .

The most powerful part of these inner revelations is not the actual change in our thinking, but the awareness of our change and what we go on to do in light of it—how it affects the way we live and the way we relate to people in our lives.

The most interesting novels to me show characters grow and develop (and regress!) over time—they explore the twisty path of human experience, not just event.

I hope your characters have pivotal moments—large and small—in their interior lives, perhaps kindled by action happening in the story, perhaps intrinsic to, thus feeding the story. It doesn’t matter which comes first—the plot, then the characters’ change and growth or a character’s change that leads to some explosive plot, but inner change has to be there.

We shouldn’t create static characters, because humans aren’t static. Even in the silliest, most simple ways they change, grow, discover—and are changed by noticing that they do.

So what do you think? Do your characters change in big and small ways through your story or series? Do you agree that it’s important?

7 thoughts on “Going Through Changes

  1. If you listened to all the old stories (Peter Pan, etc) you’d never think growing up was a good thing, but it is, and you’ve said it very well. I’ve always figured people who long for their younger days without appreciating what they’ve gained are a little bit blinded. Freedom! It’s fantastic.

    I think these little (and big!) changes are very important. I hope I reflect that with my characters. I should go back and make sure.

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  2. Hi Ev, I definitely agree it’s important for characters to change. Although it just occurred to me that we usually mean they change in a good way. Don’t we? Hmmm. Now that got me thinking. Thanks! 🙂

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  3. Dear Jen,

    >>>I’ve always figured people who long for their younger days without appreciating what they’ve gained are a little bit blinded.<<<

    Absolutely! And I know your characters change in large and small ways all the time–one of the reasons I love your stories.

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  4. Dear Laura:

    Glad I got you thinking! (Though I know that’s your normal state anyway!)

    >>>it just occurred to me that we usually mean they change in a good way.<<<

    Yes, usually, eh? It is interesting to think of it from the other side sometimes though. One of the most powerful books I've ever read (The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck) had a main character who you adored and rooted for SO MUCH in the beginning, but who, over the course of his life, became the most heinous person . . . It was amazing, absolutely wrenching and SO believable.

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  5. I absolutely agree with you on this one. Thanks for providing the interesting topic.

    Personally, and for all the reasons you mentioned, I feel that if a character is not changing, even in small ways, then the believability of that character is greatly reduced. Without believability the reader, I think, is much less likely to identify with the characters and feel engaged by the story.

    By the way, thanks for coming by and reading my blog and thank you very much for the comment also. I’ll add you to my friend’s list, and look forward to future correspondences with you.

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  6. Oh hey AmberinGlass, nice to see you here! I’m really glad you found my post interesting and I completely concur with thoughts on believability of characters.

    Re: “By the way, thanks for coming by and reading my blog.”

    I’ve been back a lot without commenting too–I’ll try to comment more. So many of your posts are worth revisiting. I loved your birthday thoughts triggered by Martin Luther King Jr.

    Ditto looking forward to future correspondences with you.

    Cheers,
    Ev

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  7. Thank you very much Ev, I’m really glad to know someone appreciated that post. I know how difficult the ins and outs of blogging can be sometimes, so any comment at all is always worth more than its weight in gold. 😀

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