In our previous sessions, we discussed our 3 act or triangle method of writing story outlines. One of the components in your story will be how do your characters evolve over the course of time and those events. When developing characters, I also use the 3 act outline or triangle for this method as well.
In character development, we have to evolve our character, they have to change in regards to the obstacles they face and how that shapes their character. For instance, you and I are not the same people we were a few years ago. Some people have a moment where they can change drastically over a short period; consider a broken relationship, a family tragedy, or even an environmental impact. But not all character development needs to be pushed by things on such a grand scale. Consider something another character says in a conversation or something a character hears other characters talking about. Each of these types of scenarios can change the development of a character.
Breaking this down in terms of our triangle, we would have…
Character initial state>>>>>trigger event>>>>>> Character post event.
If we look back at our previous sessions, we can use the above path to evolve our kid that is going to the store and losing his money. In terms of character development, the fact our kid is playing with his money on his way to the store shows his relaxed nature towards money. If the character was really protective of his money, he would have had it in his pocket, wallet or some how protecting it.
In the event of the character losing their money as a result from playing with it, the character can not buy what they were going to the store for. As a result from this triggering event (losing the money) the character needs to resolve how they will change, if at all. For instance the character could have a new found appreciation for money and it shows in his following actions. Or the character could not learn anything, which is also character development.
Depending on your character, not every event will teach them life lessons. Let me explain. Think of every day encounters we all have that doesn’t necessarily change our behaviors. For instance, we still have hunger and wars even though we see images, videos and news casts about these kinds of things. However, some people need to experience things to change instead of seeing images or videos, thats whats makes everyone different. You don’t want all of your characters behaving the same way.
When developing characters, we can treat their development like story arcs. Characters can be going through a couple developments at once. Again relating our story of the kid and the store, when we talked about multiple arcs, we included an arc with a bully. So within this story, the character could develop a stance on money but also develop their relationship with the bully; does their relationship get worse or do they come to understand one another.
The character’s development can take the form of several arcs, and like the story arcs we discussed previously, they can intermingle with one another, one arc can be completed within the development of another arc and so on. Now spread this across the board with multiple characters and not just your main character.
Not all character changes happen smoothly however. Sometimes characters experience a triggering event, and they can not cope with it. The event can be so devastating or unbelievable that the character fails to come to grips with the result. This event could conflict with what the character thought they knew or a strong belief they had. Characters can struggle with their new development for a variety of reasons, fear of change or they don’t like what they are becoming are some possible routes among many others.
Next week we will go over some more on character development and in finding ways to model the characters and to help them make decisions within the world you have created.