What Every Writer Should Know About Creating Change in Their Characters

In writing a book you have a lot of creative license to work with, but there are still foundational principles you must follow. A principle that is relevant to all stories is change. The essence of a story is the journey which a character or characters take, and a journey involves change.

Stories are about change. If your characters don’t show some sort of change throughout your book, than it will fall flat.

Lacking change

Think of your favorite book. How was the main character different from the first scene to the last scene? Now imagine that the character seemed not at all phased by what they just went through in the story, that they acted the same way they did in the first scene. I would hazard to guess that you would be let down by the lack of difference the  character would show.

Without change, stories would be disappointing. What kind of a tale would it be if Frodo returned to the Shire as the same Hobbit he was when he left? How would Harry Potter have defeated Voldemort if he hadn’t learned anything from his years of schooling or from his previous battles?

How unrealistic would it be if Katniss Everdeen hadn’t developed PTSD from being a tribute in the Hunger Games?

Without change a story would be unrealistic and the characters would bore us by their stagnancy.

Fictional stories are drawn from real life. Real life involves change, so a story without change is a story that has fallen short.

Creating change

Now that we’ve seen how important change is to a story, how does someone incorporate it into their writing?

Some amount of change will probably make it into our stories even if we don’t think about it, but if we do focus on it, than we will crush the storytelling game.

A better understanding of how change works helps, so first things first, reflect on your own life and pinpoint its turning points. For good or for bad, what change did you experience from the significant events in your life?

The turning points in your life are the plot points of your story, and just like you the character must change, for better or for worse.

Pick the first turning point in your story, the inciting action that changes your character’s world, and decide on what change that would create in your character.

You can go through you’re whole story this way. For each plot point keep this question posed: “How will this affect my character?” If you keep this question in your mind, you are well on your way to bring about change in your character that will be the most noticeable when you make it to the final page.

If you have trouble going from plot point to plot point, ask yourself where your character will be when the story ends. How will he/she be affected by the end of their journey? Are they stronger or more broken than when they started?

From there all you need to know is what needs to happen for them to get from point A to point B in their journey of change.

Change is the essence…

Change is the essence of stories. We get hooked on stories because we wonder how they will turn out. If the ending turned out no different than the beginning we would be very disappointed.

Our lives are defined by change, and so must our stories.


Take ten minutes and ponder how your character will change from the beginning, to the middle, and to the end of your story.

Related Post I Recommend:

“5 Steps to Write Characters that Change,” written by Jeff Elkins and published on The Write Practice

What change will your character undergo in their journey? Share in the comments. 

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