1. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Character Change/Development During Time Jump

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Thornesque, Sep 18, 2013.

    In one of my current projects, the first chapter is the major event that sets the story in motion. I introduce both the protagonist and the antagonist, as well as establish the driving-force behind the MC's actions. The chapter ends with the MC making up her mind about what she's going to do - the decision to go on the journey that encompasses the entire plot of the novel.

    In this first chapter, said character is completely family oriented. One of the driving forces in the story is that she loses her family here, and she wants revenge (cheesey? perhaps, but it's my story). We hear her as she cries out for both of them, and pleads with the antagonist to spare them. The other driving force is in something that happens to the main character as a result of the antagonist's actions. A disability, if you will.

    At the end of this chapter, the protagonist is pretty evenly split - she wants to avenge her family, as well as herself, for what this man did to her. However, between chapters 1 and 2, there's a time jump, and the character is now 10 years older. At this point, motives seem to have shifted. While she still misses her family and feels the need to right the wrongs done to her family, she is more-so driven by the more selfish force - the disability that's been plaguing her for the last 10 years.

    Would this kind of shift in character motivation - this change from a more honorable motive to a more selfish one - be jarring to a reader? Other than this shift, nothing happens in the 10 years that can't be summed up in a few simple sentences. Her journey is her trying to find someone, and in all those ten years, she yields no results. But would a reader do a double-take upon seeing a character jump from "I'm doing it for my family," to "I'm doing it for me"?

    Thanks in advance for all replies.
     
  2. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Human mind rarely works in a straightforward manner. Sometimes a person may find that the person he/she thinks as hateful may be the one he/she is actually in love with. 10 years is a long time for priorities to changed. And if his/her priorities have become more selfish than the char is more realistic, nothing to worry about as a writer.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're assuming that revenge is an honorable unselfish motive. I wouldn't really agree. I'm not saying that it's wrong, but it's not all that pure a motive. I think that it is in part about making the wounded person feel better, so it certainly has its selfish side.

    If you want a more honorable motive for focusing on the disability, your character could be trying to cure it so that she is more able-bodied and more able to stop things like what happened for her--not a one-villain revenge but a way to make the world safer from that situation in general. For example, she might be trying to fulfill the physical requirements for becoming a police officer.
     
  4. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Well, it's not really about whether or not one is honorable and one is not in that sense. I'm not trying to emphasize one by including the other. The issue is whether or not it makes sense that, over time, one of her motives seems to dim drastically, in light of the other. That the importance that she places on one seems to diminish and no longer seems quite so important to her, namely because of the other. I think it's naturally that she feels both, given her personality. That she would want to get even, if you will, for both "crimes" against her. But as soon as I started writing Chapter 2, I realized that the character was putting more personal emphasis - was lingering more - on the disability that she received than on the loss of her family.

    I guess the bottom line question here is: If you read the end of a chapter and a character had two clear motives for action, then got to chapter two and it was almost like one of those motives was an after thought (keeping in mind that time has passed between these two chapters), would you feel that you've been cheated of some explanation? Is the span of time between the chapters enough to explain that she's changed, or should I include detail? The character herself is not consciously aware that her motives have changed. She doesn't realize that she's not doing this so much for her family, anymore, but more for herself. She's caught up more in the action of doing it, than the motives behind it. So I can't retrespectively go, "Ten years have passed, and I want to do this more for myself than for my family." The only plausible option, if the way I have it now is not enough, is to include another chapter or two between them that spans a bit more into that 10 year period and use them to help portray the change more gradually, rather than introducing the 10-year-older character.

    I feel like I'm not explaining this properly... Hope I wrote it more clearly this time (I feel like i said the same thing five times or more haha).
     
  5. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    You are explaining fine. I just don't understand why are you so eager to reveal why she wanted her revenge in a black or white manner. I wanted revenge for these and these but now I want revenge only for these. Is that significant to the plot?
     
  6. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    It's not so much that I was eager to reveal it. It's just that, because of the 10 year time skip, there was a bit of retrospection so that the ten years isn't just some gaping black hole, and during that retrospection, the character continued to linger on that singular thought. About "what he did to me," which is different from the "what he did to my family," mentality that she had at the end of chapter 1. I knew from the beginning that she was going to have these dueling motives; it's just a part of her character. As I started writing, though, despite what I'd already written in chapter 1, things were different in chapter 2 (I have my own suspicions for why that is, but I'll find out if I'm right or not later).

    My main focus is how a reader will interpret this. If I need to show her change of the ten years so that there's some explanation as to why this happened, or if the simple explanation of "She's lived the last 10 years; of course she's different now," is a simple enough explanation and people aren't going to question it.
     
  7. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    I'd accept the simple version. Over a span of ten years, it seems obvious to me that people change. I've changed quite significantly since 2003, I bet most people on the forum would agree that what motivates them today is slightly different from what motivated them ten years ago (except: cookies!). Life goals change, too (either as they get accomplished, or as they are abandoned and forgotten).

    I would find it quite challenging to explain (elegantly and briefly) why such a change occured. There could be myriad reasons, and they could all be interlinked.
     
  8. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    I think it's fine to accept that change, and I think it's a reasonable change. As time goes on, death gets a little murky. You miss the people, there's always that hole, but I think that since she's been left disabled (or even un-whole as she might see it) that her frustration at the situation would end up focusing on the disability. It makes perfect sense to me and as a reader I would fully accept that change without question.
     
  9. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Thank you both for your responses. ^.^ And everyone, for that matter. Sorry I beat around the bush so much. v.v
     
  10. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    10 years of obsessing? Hell, what took so long? Punisher took like two weeks. But realistically with obsession comes pretty much selfishness, it comes with the territory. I'd understand her plight, it wouldn't be jarring, it'd be compelling in my opinion.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The change sounds fine, but I'm wondering if Chapter One shouldn't be really a Prologue, in that case? It sounds like it's something significant that needs to be said, but it doesn't really sound like it fits into the flow of where the real story starts.
     
  12. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    I don't know...prologues, in my opinion (strictly my opinion; I don't pretend to be an expert), follow a few guidelines, that mine doesn't follow:

    -It is usually brief (shorter than the rest of the chapters in the book) May or may not be true in this case, but even if it is, it's not significantly shorter
    -It is usually written in such a way that grabs a reader's attention and intrigues them about the rest of the story While I like to think that my first chapter is still interesting, it doesn't have that intentionally, over-the-top hook that prologues usually have
    -They'll typically cover information that, while crucial, will also be covered in-depth at a later point in the book (because there are people that skip them) Of course, there's going to be mention of this event in later points in the book, but these scenes will be written keeping in mind that people have already read about and understand the event and what's taken place, so they don't need to be re-told.

    Admittedly, in the beginning, I wanted to make this first scene a prologue. Cut things off at the point when the character's nearly dead and things all go to hell. But there are so many things that happen both immediately before and immediately after that event that make it a very impractical to say, "By the way, these are the things we didn't tell you!" I can't wrap the entirety of the scene into one neat little hook-package. The interactions between the characters (both antag and protag) are critical to a later point in the story, or else we're suddenly dumping it on the reader and going "HA! DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING DID YOU?!" And no, not in the good, "What a nice twist!" way, but in the, "Seriously? Go to hell," as the toss the book across the room and call me every cuss word in their repertoire, way.

    So...yeah. ^.^'
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Loool. Well, I'm not experienced with prologues myself. I don't think length is usually a problem, though prologues tend to be shorter, it's true. I think your preconception that by nature of being a prologue, it must have an "over the top hook" is a little askew though. A good prologue should hook you, just as a good chapter one should hook you. Heck, chapter ones NEED to hook you. It doesn't matter whether you'd intended it to hook - in fact, if you haven't checked it for the hooking factor, you need to go back and do that right now. Because without a hook, your readers won't be well, reading :D

    As for the people who skip prologues - I understand the concern, but if those readers get confused, they'll probably realise it's because they skipped the prologue and blame themselves rather than blame you. I think readers are generally quite fair in this regard. Can you blame the author for confusing you if you actively chose to go and skip a chunk of it, after all?

    Don't skip a prologue out of fear. Use or skip a prologue because it's best for your story, it's most appropriate for your book. And there're also readers aplenty who don't skip prologues at all.

    But hey, all this is irrelevant. First you must decide IF it should be a prologue. Perhaps someone else could give a second opinion. Maybe it's perfectly fine without a prologue, you decide.
     
  14. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Oh my...it seems much of my post was taken completely out of context.

    Yes, again, it was an opinion of what I feel a prologue entails. Yes, I personally believe that they should be shorter than a chapter. I never said they had to be. it is what I feel they should be.

    Yes, I understand that my first chapter, particularly when there isn't a prologue to initiate the hook, should be interesting, and contain a hook of its own. I obviously don't intend for the chapter to be a boring narration.

    It isn't fear leading me to "skip" the chapter. I'm not afraid of prologues; I have used them before and have stood by arguments with others that they're not all hopelessly pointless. I am skipping the prologue because what I have written for the first chapter, to me, does not suit my personal opinion about what a prologue should be like: a short, concise, catching piece of writing that gives the reader an idea about what they're going to find in the rest of the chapters of the book. I believe that my first chapter contains too much information to be thrown into a prologue, and I also don't think it would work for my particular story (take note, here, where I said "for my particular story" so that I don't have to hear the argument that this is not a bad method and can actually done effectively by a skilled writer, as I'm already aware to be the case) to scatter this information throughout the majority of the novel to be picked up at random times.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Wow, chill. No one's arguing with you. You gave an opinion, I gave you mine. Reread what I wrote - I said specifically to "do whatever you think is BEST for YOUR story". That's great you don't think a prologue is suitable for your book. It's a forum, people give suggestions. I suggested something, you did not say you don't feel it's good for your story, but rather you said what you think prologues are, so I'm giving you my opinions on what prologues are. Crikey. If you were offended that I implied you might be afraid of something, then say I was wrong, that's just fine, but there's no need to get all defensive over nothing.
     
  16. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    I don't know at what point you thought I wasn't "chill." I would like to point something out though: at any point, when two people have differing opinions, it's typically an argument. It may not be hostile in any way, but it is an argument. And part of arguing is counter-arguing. I was simply explaining, for the sake of said argument, why the chapter doesn't work, as I see it, as a prologue, as opposed to why you feel that it would. Emphasis put on words were meant simply for that purpose: to emphasize what I was saying. I understand and appreciate that you have your own opinion of what a prologue is. Mine differs, and (and don't take this as "not chill," as I promise you, it is not) as it's my story, it's my opinion which I shall be trusting, until such a time as someone presents an argument to me that changes my mind. I'm more than open to hearing those opinions, but I think that those opinions would be better suited if a person would, first, read what I have written, before assuming that a prologue is "most appropriate," for my book. You have not done so, though of course, I don't hold this against you, as it would be ludicrous to assume that you could have done such a thing. However. Again. As I am the only one who has read it (at this point in time) and as what you said happened to not have an affect on my opinion, I will continue to leave what is currently marked as "chapter 1" as "chapter 1." And now, in order to assure that this post isn't taken as "not chill," I'm going to post a smiley face, which, on the internet, is the universal sign of good intention: :)
     

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