One thing that is constantly on my mind when rewriting this first book is character development. I have the first drafts of book one and two already, so I know when and how the viewpoint characters change.
The male lead goes through the wringer in book one and by the time we see him in book two, he’s a different guy. The female lead has the odd moment of insight and doubt in the first half of book one, but it’s not until she meets an old ‘friend’ that things really start to happen for her. By midway through book two you can tell she’s not who she once was.
I’ve been reading up about character development and come across some great advice on pages 200-204 of Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress. She divides the change process into four stages:
The reader has to believe that the character is capable of change. That they have, or did have the qualities needed to change. In the case of my male lead, it’s evident that he’s undergoing some intense internal conflict when we first meet him.
As Kress points out, change is uncomfortable and most people won’t change unless they’re forced to. The nature of the pressure, and how they respond to it, depends on the character.
For example, my female lead is a fighter. She’s comfortable in battles. When she’s taken away from what she knows, and what she’s good at, she has to adapt. The changes she undergoes in book one are so subtle that she doesn’t realise what’s happening until she’s back in a battle situation. However, the male lead’s pressure points more obvious.
At some point, the character succumbs to pressure and changes.
This is probably something I’ll need to look at during the rewrite. I find it quite easy to slip into intellectualising mode and have the character think about where they are, what’s been happening to them and what they’ll do next. When really, the just need to do it and move on. (I like the example Kress gives of Scrooge’s moment of realisation. He doesn’t dwell on the lessons he has learned, he just acts.)
If stages one and two worked then the reader already knows what led the character to change, they don’t need the writer to spell it out for them.
Lastly, the character has to demonstrate that they have changed. Kress recommends ending the story with a few of these validating actions.
I think a trilogy like Lord of the Rings, where the story arcs over the three books, may have difficulty here. You can’t have that many “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” moments in the middle of the story. I think helps if the series is structured more like the Harry Potter books, each given their own self-contained story, yet contributing to a main theme.
However, not all characters change. Some are incapable of change, while others break under the pressure. Only a few of my viewpoint characters make it through the entire process. If you think about it, it’s a reflection of real life. Some people come to a block in the road and turn back, while others will work to find a way around it.