On Transformation

Recently,* the Intern did a post about transformation in characters. Her point (and you should read the rest of her post, because it's awesome) is that too often, writers have their characters transform for no reason whatsoever. All of sudden they just look into the sky and decide that their lives are going to be different, and that's a crap way to handle transformation in a story.** She's right. It's not interesting, and, furthermore, it's cliched. It's every bad teenage movie/book in the world. Characters have to change over time, and even after they've changed they shouldn't be unrecognizable from their former selves.

For example, in a project I'm thinking about now, a girl goes from being an ordinary good girl to being a more rebellious and outspoken girl.*** She doesn't do this by staring up at the stars and thinking to herself "as God is my witness, I'll never be shy again!" but at the result of several situations and experiences that have an effect on her.

Of course, characters in books can't change the way people usually do, either--gradually and over time, hardly noticing it themselves--because that doesn't make a good story either. A narrative isn't like reality because usually in reality there is usually no climactic moment,**** but in a story, there usually is. Not always, and not necessarily, but typically, and for good reason. A character (especially, in my opinion, a YA character) should change in part because of her own will and in part because of things that happen around her. A combination of things. And there should be build up to it, and a denoument after.*****

I guess what I'm saying w/r/t character transformation is that I don't want to watch water dripping on a rock, one drop at a time, but on the other hand, I don't want to turn a page and suddenly see the Grand Canyon, either.


* Have you noticed that when I say "recently" it can mean anything from yesterday to a few months ago? That's because I save posts from other people that interest me and then write about them when the mood hits or I think I have something interesting# to say.
#YMMV on the interesting part.

** Ironically, in real life this is sometimes exactly how a person decides to change him or herself. Just another example of how reality doesn't equal good storytelling.

*** Forgive the vagueness. There's a lot more interesting stuff than that, including some kickass characters I'm so psyched about##, but the project is really in the fledgling stages and I can't say more about it than that without spoiling it for myself. (It wouldn't be spoiled for you, of course, because by the time I actually write it and it gets published, you will have DIED. Or forgotten all about this post. Either or.)
## who says "psyched" anymore? Jesus, I'm a hundred years old.

**** Spare me the sex jokes, please. I've already thought (and written, and deleted) them all. :)

***** I'm a traditionalist in that way. Whip me, beat me, call me Gustav Freytag.


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