Writing Fiction: Managing Your Characters’ Changes

Write a Novel: Your Characters

Are you getting ready for NaNoWriMo? Whether you are or not, if you’re writing a novel you must give some thought to how your characters will change during the course of your novel.

You characters will change with every scene. Indeed, that’s what a “scene” is, a unit of change.

If you read books on fiction theory, you’ve heard about the story arc, and the “character arc”.

Veronica Sicoe’s excellent article examines three kinds of character arc, starting with:

The Change Arc – this is our good old “hero’s journey”, which basically has the protagonist change from an unlikely fellow into a savior and hero. This transformation is quite radical, and despite some inner strength that was “always within him”, pretty much all else about the protagonist changes drastically by the end of the story.

Your lead characters must change during the course of your novel and you need to keep track of those changes. The easiest way is to create a running outline for each primary character. List how he feels at the beginning of each scene, and how he feels at the end.

Unlike real life, your characters need to have a reason to act and feel as they do:

  • You might quit your job just because you feel like it. Your character must have a reason to quit.
  • You may feel depressed, even though everything in your life is fine. Your characters need motivation to be depressed, and you must reveal their motivation.

Tip: your readers identify with your characters; with your lead character, most of all. That identification happens because you reveal your characters’ thoughts, and this leads to your readers emotions becoming engaged.

Keep a Running Outline of Scenes

Some writers plot and outline their entire novel before they start writing. Other writers might plot a scene or two ahead. Yet others are “pantsers” – they write by the seat of their pants and never outline.

I tend to outline after I’ve written 10,000 words of a novel. Once I know who my story people are, I can outline.

You can use outlines, or not. However, I urge you to keep a running outline of scenes as you write. Make a note of how your characters feel at the end of a scene, and why. As mentioned, this helps you to develop your plot. It also helps you to create characters who are easy for your readers to identify with, because they change as your book progresses.

Here’s a good scene outline template.

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photo credit: excitingsounds via photopin cc

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.