1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Does a character revelation have to be caused by an event?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ryan Elder, Aug 9, 2015.

    Most times in fiction characters have revelations, or changes of heart or how they feel about things, by an event happening. For example in Batman, it's the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents that's the even that gets him into crime fighting.

    Or in most stories with murder in, someone may put a murder plan into action, but before it's complete, some event will happen that will make the character change his heart, and call it off.

    But can a character have a change without a specific event happening and it will still make sense, without feeling like an unnatural or forced switch?

    Does there have to be an event, or can it be completely character driven with no plot events? What if a murderer came up with a plan, but then changed his mind, because he realized he couldn't do it, just because?

    Or what if Bruce Wayne wanted to fight crime because he hated the very idea of crime in general, and nothing bad was ever done to him to cause it?

    Is this natural for the reader to accept, or does their have to be necessary event to kick it off and you have to make room in the story for it?
     
  2. Diablo101
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    Diablo101 Member

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    Personally, I find the 'event' to be a much more focused way of putting in a 'change of heart' moment. It helps the reader understand the why behind the action, or the motives. If Batman just wanted to fight crime for no reason, then no, but adding in something like you said, (He hates crime, revolted by it, wanted to rid the 'earth' of the scum etc), I believe they are motive enough for a person to continue or change a feeling.

    A murderer, was on the roll to murder Person A, but a change of heart happened because he couldnt, why? he couldnt stand being called a murderer, he cant stand the sight of blood, i know they are poor motives for a change of heart, but it can be a fairly easy change without a big action occurring.

    It all just depends whether a 'no-action change of heart' can be put into a story that makes it believable for the reader, I believe it can be, but a lot of work for some other motive, no matter how small or big, to be explained, or hinted at within the story... In an action packed, adventurer story, I somewhat expect some big action event for a change.. In say.. a romance, with little action, I seem to expect some conflicting feelings or emotions that change someone...

    This probably didnt make much sense... But I hope it helps.
     
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  3. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    This might get a bit esoteric... but I'm inclined to say that it's technically "yes", in that (in my understanding) every thought or idea your brain processes somehow originates from sensory input from the outside world (i.e. an event). The brain basically integrates information from the senses and reaches a conclusion (mindset) to direct an appropriate response (behaviour). (I'm not a psychologist, so I'm probably using ridiculous terminology and entirely misrepresenting things, but hopefully you get my drift.)

    However, sometimes the integration may take a while (i.e. maybe the penny drops much later, seemingly out of nowhere), or the revelation in question requires an existing mindset formed from a series of previous experiences before one specific event triggers it. There's no reason the previous experiences or triggering event need to be profound, but the revelation may still be.

    For instance, all through my childhood, every time I ate meat I felt kinda uneasy. But only on my 18th birthday did I think, "Wow, I'm officially an adult. Maybe I should straighten out my ideals and act on them." And I've been vego ever since, which I consider a significant part of my identity. (Don't worry: not judging. Just as I've had my formative experiences, so has everyone else.)

    I think @Diablo101 is right though - the more major the event, the easier it is to relate the drama to the audience. And I suppose people in general are more likely to alter their mindset when events personally affect them (as per Bruce Wayne and his parents' murder). My origin story would be way more entertaining if I could say I went into a fugue state upon witnessing a chicken being decapitated, and came out of it as The Quinoa Wonder.
     
  4. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course it can. But normally even in real life something happens to trigger a decision or change. Take your Batman example. If his parents were never killed, then you are left with the task of explaining why an ordinary, albeit crime hating man would suddenly abandon his ordinary life, and then invest huge amounts of time and effort in making himself into a crime fighter. It would be rather hard to believe that a billionaire industrialist would be sitting on his chair one day checking his stock portfolio, and just out of nowhere jump up and declare that he is going to risk life and limb to fight crime in a manner that is basically illegal.
     
  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Oh okay. I have a premise for a story that would start where a man wants to murder someone out of revenge, and plans it all out. But when he gets there, he is overcome with guilt and shame and changes his mind and does not go through with it. But I need him execute the plan so things can go wrong anyway. I need him to have a revelation, but I have no idea what can cause the revelation, especially since he would want to keep it secret, and therefore no one else can know about it, so if any any event were to cause it, it's all on him.

    What do you think?
     
  6. Jack13star
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    Jack13star Member

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    I think that shame and guilt are a huge reason for closing up shop and going home. But, if you you feel that there has to be a very sudden change of heart to make these feelings finally come forward, how about him almost killing someone else. Like the target is all set up and ready when suddenly a small child bolts in front and he flinches and almost (Or does) Pull the trigger, giving him a heavy dose of reality. It would be easier to help if I knew the circumstances, but I think there is something simple yet powerful you could come up with! Character development is super important, my personal favorite thing in a story, you can have small triggers to both set the character off, and calm them down.
    Hope that makes sense! Have you written the entire thing already or just beginning on it?
     
  7. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Technically, even a change of heart of mind is usually caused by something. It might be something in the subconscious that a person might not even be aware of.

    I suppose it would be OK to have something subtle in a story become a guiding factor in the plot, but you'd have to really emphasise that subtlety to make reading think, 'Ah, that makes sense.'

    Though when taking the 'Batman' analogy, then one would argue that it requires something extra to drive that character over the edge, and in that case, his parents were murdered. I don't think the average person person would be compelled to fight crime just because we hate it, otherwise you'd have a lot of vigilantes out there. But this also brings in the idea that the actions taken can be measured; for example, fighting crime is dangerous and complex in terms of law, so people would be put off by that alone. Do the characters motivations outweigh the task?

    If you really want a plot to be driven without a catalyst or a revelation then you could always just try and see how it reads. Then let a few other people read it and get their opinion.
     
  8. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I already asked other people's opinions though, and they said they do not get the sudden change there has to be some event to create that change they feel. There is someone who witnesses the would be murder and calls the cops but I haven't figured it out how he witnesses it yet, since I need to come up with the character revelation first to build around that.

    I could have it so that seeing the witness would give the would be killer a change, but would he just because someone else spotted him?

    As for giving more of the circumstances, I am not sure what they are yet, since I have to come up with the revelation first, before I can come up with the circumstances that are necessary to support it, if that makes sense.
     
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  9. Jack13star
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    Jack13star Member

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    Have you already written the witness in before your saw this little block coming? If it was someone the MC cared about, witnessing him/her being an awful human being, could it abruptly change their mind?
    Anyway, if the revelation is where you are blocked and you have more to write, step over it for a few days and keep writing, it might come to you all on its own :)
     
  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. The witness I put in before cause I wanted the crime to be witnessed which will lead to other parts of the story, such as the would be killer, having to cover up an act of attempt and make people believe no murder was going to happen.

    I could write it so that the witness is someone the killer knows, and perhaps the witness went to say hi to him, cause he thought it was a funny coincidence to run into him, but perhaps the reader will think that is too much of a convenient coincidence if they know each other?

    Would the villain have a revelation just because someone he knows shows up, as oppose to wanting to maybe kill the witness too along with the victim, since he has already planned one murder anyway?
     
  11. Jack13star
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    Jack13star Member

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    That I think, would depend on who the person was going to kill, or how far they traveled to do it, it might be perfectly normal to run into someone you know in any circumstance. Is there anyone your MC cares about a great deal? Ask yourself a few questions about the character. It might inspire a new twist or event that you could use.

    What does your character fear more than anything?
    Who do they trust?
    Do they have a secret?

    Just a few, Who knows, you might just need to spend the time brainstorming until it hits you!
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    I am actually not sure what my character's trusts, fears, or secrets are. I am keeping that open for now, since I need to establish what causes the revelation first, and then come up with all these things after, to support it.

    What if he has an accomplice in his murder scheme? What if he goes there to the scene of where it is to take place, and the plan is ready, but he says he cannot go threw it, and that he is sorry for wasting the accomplices time? That way, the change of heart is not so sudden and jarring to the reader possibly, but he gradually changed his mind beforehand. But if he did, would he really go down there to tell him instead of just a phone call or not showing or calling at all since he is seriously considering washing his hands of it? Cause I still need him to be there, to be placed at the scene.
     
  13. Jack13star
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    Jack13star Member

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    The thing about a revelation is that it can be triggered by something that is important to us, or moves us in some way. I think you should get to know your character better. What moves him? The real question is, why does he not go through with it? Did he think he might get caught? Would it shame him in some way if someone in particular found out?
    The accomplice isn't a bad tie in, but then you have a whole new character on your hands. Where did he come from? Why does your guy trust him enough to share this secret with him, a secret that could change everything.

    I might be able to give you better advice if I knew a bit more about the story. If you don't want to post it here you could PM me if you wanted to.
    Does the murder he backs out on have to take place? Or does that person still live?
     
  14. Aaron Lopez
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    Aaron Lopez Member

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    You said earlier that you want your character to feel shameful for thinking about murder, and you want that character to commit it anyway and let bad things happen?

    I think you need to really know who that character is, because it's a unique predicament that not many people find themselves in. The most successful writers, if you deduce from their stories, know their characters inside out before they present them with a proper plot to play around in. J.K Rowling is really, really good at this, which is why her Harry Potter series and her new Cormoran Strike series have been very, very popular.

    But technically yes, in a story, you need an external event for the character to have a revelation. Stories are compressed, poetic experiences of our lives in some way, and while our own revelations are gradual, we tend to believe we have "defining" moments ourselves.

    For example, I tell people (and myself) that I wanted to become a filmmaker when I was 13, after I saw The Matrix Reloaded and thought I could do better. Really though, I grew up on Spielberg and Disney movies for as long as I could remember, and Michael Jackson was my favourite music artist because he used dance to express himself.

    You also read this in biographies. When you ask people "How did Steve Jobs become so successful", they will always hone in on the rebellious, defining moments of his young adulthood, not the gradual, boring experiences he had over the decades. It stems from the same part of our collective conscious that loves "get rich quick" schemes instead of "get rich slow" schemes =)
     
  15. AspiringNovelist
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    AspiringNovelist Contributing Member

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    I think you need something the reader can empathize with or detest and that should be an event. Without it your characters will fill shallow, not real, and without any real purpose in the story.
     
  16. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well as far I know for sure, I do not want the character to commit the murder but he still has to plan it out enough so that he is about to, and is at the scene to be witnessed. But I cannot think of anything that would all of a sudden happen at the scene, to make him change his mind, event wise. I just need him to realize he cannot do it, even after planning it and arriving.
     
  17. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    The witness is a totally logical reason to change his mind : he realizes that if he wants to continue with his plan he needs to murder the lovely old lady living next door to his target. He is not prepared to kill an innocent third party, he has not included this possibility in his plan so he gets confused and leaves the place.

    Alternatively you can show from the very beginning that he feels uncertainty and build up an entire inner fight between his good and bad self that gets more and more intense as the murderous act is coming closer and closer. When he is there he aims his weapon but can't pull the trigger.

    Edited to add : why not finding the target already dead?
     
  18. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. However, I can see the witness changing his mind for now, but will that change his mind forever? There will always be future opportunities, without a possible witness coming in, so I can only see it changing his mind for the time being. I cannot have the target already dead because I would like the option of the target living and playing a central role.

    I also rewatched season 5, episode 2, of Breaking Bad and it also has a situation where Mike was going to murder Lydia but then just before he does it, after planning it out and coming to her house, he changes his mind, because he feels she can be useful, but he still planned it out and went there and came close before changing his mind. There was also no external event that caused him to change, he just reconsidered all of a sudden.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2015
  19. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    It totally depends on where you want the story to go. He can go home and plan to come back later more prepared (but can't do that as the police arrest him) or change his mind and decide that this whole murder thing is too stressful for him and it is better to give up than making mistakes like last time.

    Good idea. I would do the same.

    I haven't seen Breaking Bad but the situation you describe sounds to be a bit underdeveloped. I have seen movies and films where the characters made pretty unreasonable decisions and it really annoyed me.
    It usually turns me away if the main character's motivation is unclear or intentionally hidden from the reader/viewer.
     
  20. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Not to compelling

    Bruce Wayne is sitting in a luxurious arm chair reading the paper while Alfred stands beside, reading another part of the paper.

    "Alfred?"

    "Yes, Mr. Wayne?"

    "I'm going to fight crime."

    "I'll alert the media."

    No. That was a joke from Arthur and it was funny for its lack of motivating reason, but something has to spur them. It could be that Mr. Wayne saw a crime on the news and decided he would help, but there is always some external force at work.

    Think of it like this: if all through their life they were not motivated, what changed to motivate them? People don't stop being lazy spur of the moment. The grand dragon of the KKK isn't going to stop being racist because it just came to him.
     
  21. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    As in real life, something as to stir the revelation. Whether it be a song, a sermon, a book, a movie, a conversation someone had two weeks ago. Revelations always come from something else. We are rarely that smart. If we were, no need for "revelations." We'd simply be living IN the good life. If you omit cause and effect in fiction writing, readers will probably think the narrator is intervening.
     

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