Character Growth – One Author’s Account
Characters are the most important part of a story and as critical as the plot. Authors face the challenge of creating an interesting, diversified assortment of characters and chronicle their growth as the story progresses. How well we succeed at this task determines the reader’s overall connection with the people occupying our tale.
My latest book, The Circle of Friends, Book IV…Mike, features two main characters, Mike and Danielle.
Mike enters the story as a likeable but troubled young man harboring a tremendous amount of guilt. A past incident resulted in a slip of moral judgment and Mike now regrets his decision. He also feels guilt regarding his feeling towar d his best friend’s wife, and fights those feelings on a daily basis. On the surface his life appears quite ideal – Mike is a member of the football team and will graduate soon from college. However, his internal conflicts have prevented Mike from growing as a person.
Danielle is a lot less troubled, but she has issues as well. She is a strong-willed, outgoing young woman who sometimes intimidates others with her assertive nature. She has no difficulty cultivating relationships but struggles to maintain friendships. She’s occasionally demanding of others, and Danielle is a bit of a perfectionist.
Both characters have flaws and imperfections, but it’s these very traits that make them interesting. How they deal with these issues becomes the meat of the story.
Danielle’s friendship challenge is a fault of which she is aware, especially when she is hard pressed to find a Maid of Honor. Sensing Mike’s concerns regarding his friendship with Matt and Sarah, she works very hard to maintain close contact with Sarah. Once she and Mike are married, her independent and perfectionist nature must compromise to accommodate her husband. A crisis toward the end of the story also forces Danielle’s assertive dominance to subside, although it nearly destroys her spirit in the process.
Mike’s changes are more dramatic. His relocation to New Mexico removes the temptation of Sarah, but it’s not until Danielle enters his life that Mike finally overcomes his struggle. However, his guilt remains, and when forced to recognize his mistakes, Mike almost folds. With Danielle’s help he is able to forgive himself, and at that point feels he is free. However, as often happens, issues have a way of resurfacing when new challenges appear. Mike experiences a moment of total relapse and grows angry and resentful. He flounders mentally and emotionally, trying to place blame rather than accept his present situation. Only through the help of a friend is he able to acknowledge his immature behavior and accept his responsibilities.
Just like real life, challenges are required to inspire character growth. When life proceeds smoothly and no risks are taken, growth doesn’t occur. It’s in the trials and tribulations that strength is discovered. The person who refuses to move forward stagnates. If no character rises to the call, then the reader is disappointed and feels just as stunted. Without any challenges, the story stalls and grows boring.
Mike and Danielle face numerous situations that force then to change. They are by no means perfect by the end of the story, but they are much further along. It’s my hope that not only will readers enjoy following their growth, they will experience a little personal growth as well!
L. Diane Wolfe, professional speaker & author