Do Characters Change?

I suppose we enjoy seeing characters whom we like change for the better, and characters we don’t like fail to change and thereby suffer punishment.  Although, likeable characters with   defect, and who are unable to correct the defect, can earn our sympathy.  And then there are characters whom we dislike initially, but who win our sympathy through an act of kindness or a change of heart.   I think it’s fair to say that, as a general rule, a reader likes to see characters change: after all, this is what makes them interesting.  But, if a character changes too much, to quickly, or in completely unexpected ways, that character can lose credibility and may seem contrived.

As I look back at my novels, and think about how the characters changed during the story, I see some interesting points.  Fishing in Foreign Seas was my first novel – a kind of experiment.  It is a romance and a business challenge.  To me, with benefit of hindsight, the characters are somewhat stereotypical, and they don’t change much.  Rather, they learn and grow from the challenges with which they are presented.

Sin & Contrition, my second novel is a kind of morality tale about six characters, friends from the age of 13.  They are quite different characters, from different backgrounds.  As a result of the temptations each of them faces, a few of them change their values and priorities quite significantly; some do not change much (and probably earn the reader’s condemnation).

The next two novels, Efraim’s Eye and The Iranian Scorpion are thrillers.  In both cases, the hero and the villain do not change much at all, but in each case, the key supporting character changes almost beyond recognition.  In Efraim’s Eye, the key supporting character is Naomi, who starts out as a naïve, adorable nomad, and by the end of the book, she has become a pragmatic, tough-minded woman.  In The Iranian Scorpion, Rustam is the key supporting character.  When we first meet him, he is a frightened, insecure, Afghan boy of 15 with sexual fantasies. By the end, he is a confident, secure, married man with a pregnant wife.  How did these changes occur?  Each of these characters underwent a hammering in the forge of real life, and each of them had the mettle to emerge stronger.

My fifth novel, Sable Shadow and The Presence, is told in the first person by a character who is seeking his identity, and it follows his changes from early childhood to middle age.  In a sense, this is a story about the how’s and why’s of character change.

Hidden Battlefields should be published in about six weeks.  It is a sequel to The Iranian Scorpion, but each of the four main characters struggles with an internal conflict, the resolution of which changes his or her life quite dramatically.  This is a novel about what causes us to change, and how it comes about.  By contrast, the two main evil characters, do not change much at all.  You can probably guess what happens to them!

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