Show Me the Change

Lately I’ve noticed (again) that it isn’t easy to write about a fairly badass character while being frequently reminded of a time when that character wasn’t so badass.  It feels weird, too:  Is this really the same person?  Who are you, and what have you done with the real Geoffrey?  (I should keep that feeling in mind, though; one of the other characters in “that novel” says that very thing at one point.)  But yes, this really is the same person, and as a reader, I enjoy getting to witness his transition.  (Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy it as a writer, too.  The wicked-author laughter that goes back and forth in this house some days… I’m just saying it feels weird to see the same character simultaneously in both before and after modes, even though this is hardly the first time we’ve done such a thing.)

Transitions, the points when things change, are always interesting.

Common wisdom (‘Heh, heh — he said Wisdom‘) says the best point to begin a story is when something changes for the characters or the setting.  What is it about now that makes it worth telling about, as opposed to some other time?

Have an urban fantasy in which faerie creatures live openly amongst humans and have for generations?  Could be interesting, but what I’d rather read about is when this started, when those faeries first began to show themselves and when humans first had to deal with non-human people who weren’t trying to hide what they are.  On the other hand, a story about faerie creatures deciding that they don’t like coexistence and struggling to make it all go back to how it was before humans showed up and brought their nasty magic-less ways with them… Could be fun.  Again, it’s a point of change.

Galactic empires are more interesting to me when they are either rising or falling (or struggling not to fall).  Why should I care about steady-state business as usual?  Stability and interesting times seem to be mutually exclusive.

The change doesn’t have to be on a macro-scale, though.  The setting may remain essentially unaltered even through events of enormous importance to the characters personally involved.  Not every change has to be world shattering.

Hmm.  Maybe this is why I find myself not terribly interested lately in writing about Jon Livingston: when last we left that character, he was at a point in his own life that was fairly stable, after a period of two or three major upheavals.  Could also be why I lose track of the main characters from “that novel” for a while afterward.  Once the crisis in that story is resolved, there’s nothing to tell about until… well, the next crisis.  The next point at which something changes.


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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3 Responses to Show Me the Change

  1. MishaBurnett says:

    In my novels my narrator James is progressing from a badass into someone who is compassionate and soft–or at least softer. Of course, he killed his parents and most of his family when he was nine years old, so he’s got a long way to go.

    Transformation is a big theme in my novels–the non-human characters nearly always begin life as human and make a conscious choice to become something other than human. The way in which this changes both the characters and the relationships between those characters drives a great deal of my story.

    Also in the one I am working on now (the 4th) the supernatural world is “coming out”–largely driven by the efforts of one person, my narrator’s sister Agony. In the process she is earning the wrath of the Elder Gods, who have hidden the existence of the supernatural world from humanity for thousands of years. I haven’t seen that done in mid-series before, and I am kind of making it up as I go.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura L. says:

    Again, from the total n00b writer perspective, these tidbits are golden. Common wisdom you say? Not Universally so! I’ll scribble a note of a reminder: “May you live in interesting times.” That’s a curse, for a reason! Start the story in interesting times…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I use a Punnett Box for evaluating character change:

    Liked by 1 person

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