1. Lone Vista
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    Lone Vista Member

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    Character Development required for both main characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lone Vista, Jan 8, 2016.

    (I'm not certain if this belongs in plot or character planning; I apologise if it requires relocating.)

    I'm about to pick up work on a novel again. Since the first rambling, just-for-fun draft, I've developed the three major characters and determined the scope of what happens over the course of the book. One of the three characters is not "on screen" for a large amount of time, so they aren't an issue; the other two are the main protagonists and the story is told from their perspectives. One has a very flamboyant personality and so tends to dominate the scenes and make most of the story happen, while the other character is much more passive.

    While the flamboyant character is in some ways a stronger presence in the narrative, the book is really about the passive character and their gradual changes in perspective and growth as a person. (I should also mention that much of the passive person's change is brought about by their exposure to the other protagonist.) Here is my question: Does it cause imbalance to the story if one person has serious development while the other remains majorly unchanged? Should I examine my better-adjusted character and explore possibilities for their change or growth within this same book? Or will it work to focus more on the story I'm ready to tell and allow the other character to simply be a part of that, albeit a very important one?
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
  2. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Every major character needs a character arc of some kind. Actually this includes side characters as well.
    I think you should definitely explore both of them and how they affect eachother. Dealing with your more passive character for a long period of time will have a big impact on your more active character, and you should think about what that is. Everybody changes from beginning to end, because people are always changing.

    I just counted character arcs in my own work for kicks and I'm up to to 13. Some slope up, some so down into evil, some involve very small characters who are only on screen for a few pages in the whole book or who are just beginning long arcs that hopefully end up in future books. But everyone who isn't window dressing has a reason for being there. You probably don't need 13 plotted arcs, and my cast is too big, but your primary and secondary characters should all have rudimentary arcs, and it doesn't hurt to have at least a thought on why the tertiary people are there.
     
  3. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    To me it sounds like you have problem that the only solution I know to explain an answer is to think of Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob characters. Jay is the dominant protagonist, but Kevin Smith has the directing ability to show how each character grows without Silent Bob having any dialog. It can be done if you tell the story right. We see the changes in Jay with his dialog, Silent Bob's changes are explained in his actions.
    Just my opinion. Make the reader see the action speak louder than words.
     
  4. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    You might just be having trouble identifying how your passive character is developing. It doesn't need to be explicit. It can be inferred and left up to the reader to decide what personal changes this character has gone through.

    You mention that your passive character experiences changes by exposure to your assertive character. So there you are. Growth identified.

    Personally I love using the dynamic you've employed. I'm using it in one of my own works. The MC is completely cynical and apathetic while her offsider is bright, bubbly and irrationally optimistic. The combination works because it allows you to make observations from two very different perspectives, even if only one of them is your POV.

    Your passive character arc might culminate in the way he or she actively influences a particular course of action. Your assertive character arc might be working towards that moment where all their efforts and positivity come crashing down around them. And their shared arc can be in the way their symbiotic relationship helps them to embrace and cope with these events. Or the complete opposite.
     
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  5. Anaïs Rose
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    Anaïs Rose Member

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    oh man, i started writing my current project (i'll just call it BBS) with no real intent in mind, with a very vanilla female protagonist-- not a mary-sue, but a girl with no goals in mind. when i realized how much i cared about the project, this obviously wouldn't do, so i had to go through some very intense character development with her and her secondary character friend. All the other characters were very unique and flamboyant in their own ways, and i realized that she was just becoming a third person narrator. so studying how she reacted to the people around her helped me give her a distinctive personality, and playing her off of her secondary friend helped them build character traits at the same time. Sometimes i would just sit down with a sketch pad and draw her having conversations with the others, just little scenarios like gas station trips, what candy they would buy, reacting to tv shows, swimming, road trips, stuff that would never happen in the universe of BBS, but helped me figure out their respective personalities. You don't have to draw to try this, just write little one-offs. I hope this helps a little?
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this comes down, again, to genre and writing style. I'm thinking of some of the big Tom Clancy style novels, or James Bond or whatever, and I'm not seeing character development - they're plot-centred stories, and the characters are generally pretty much the same at the beginning as the end.

    In other genres, though, I'd say that if a character is important enough to get a POV, it'd be nice to use that POV to show a little growth/change.

    I don't think it would ever hurt, as long as you aren't letting it drag you away from your other goals.
     
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  7. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree. Not every character has to change over the course of the story. Every character should be well developed; by that, I mean the author should know the character's motivations, personality, the reasons they do what they do and who they truly are. But some people are highly resistant to change. The flamboyant, dominant character Lone Vista described sounds to me like someone who is quite confident in who s/he is and has probably seen and/or done quite a lot. A person like that doesn't seem like someone whose worldview will shift easily. And hunting for triggers to make this character change could pull the plot in directions you may not want it to go.

    I'm not saying this character can't or won't change. I just don't feel it's absolutely necessary. And leaving him/her unchanged can provide a goal post by which to measure the change in the other character(s). What does this character think when s/he begins to notice changes in the other character? I do, however, agree with your statement that everybody changes, but I would add one little detail to that: "everybody changes... eventually." A story is just one snippet of a person's life. (Unless it's a family epic or memoir or autobiography or something of that sort.) You don't need to pack a womb-to-grave transformation into it. You can explore different facets of the character's personality without actually altering that personality.
     
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  8. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    My first novel did this. The 'vehicle' character that the reader follows through the story does not develop so much from his own actions, nor does he have deep thoughts that aren't verbalized to the other MC. His love interest through her words and actions helps draw out who my 'vehicle' character is and why he goes through the book doing the things he does. By the end of the book the reader has a decently clear vision of who my male MC is.
     
  9. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    These are the most important lines here.

    It's narrative convention that characters grow and change and so on but nothing more. A lot of our most popular movies are defined by a lack of character growth. Movies like Die Hard are as memorable as they are because they revel in their lack of character growth and focus on being what they are; unashamed action without any lazy, tacked on character growth. It knows what it is and stick with that. That's the important part.

    If a character doesn't need to change or hasn't encountered anything that you think would change them then just don't change them. Remember, the vast majority of book plots are just a short chunk of a persons life. The events might be taking place over the course of a few days or so. It just rings as so hollow to have the guy two days later so 'Well now I see X is bad!' just so they can have an arc.

    Be true to the character. If you don't think they would change based on what happened then don't force them to. The fact they didn't change can be important; a point for the other character to play off and something to provide contrast to the reader. Even if you are writing very deep, very character focused books then there is no requirement for change as long as it fits the character. That a character didn't change tells us as much about them as them changing does. We need to understand why and feel that it fits but if it fits it fits.
     
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