Does EVERY protagonist need to change?

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Rick n Morty, Jun 24, 2016.

  1. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I think lessons are often organic. Meaning the happen without the intention of the writer. I've never written a story knowing exactly the protagonist will change. What happens is for each scene, there is a goal for my protagonist. Something he/she wants/needs to happen in order to further the plot. Then, I put myself in the character and ask myself what kind of impact those scenes would have. At that point it's pretty obvious what the lessons are.

    Also, as others have mentioned, the change doesn't have to be a huge realization. Often, it's better if it's not. Here's an example off the top of my head.

    A protagonist gets thrown into a criminal world, and someone tries to kill him. The protagonist ends up winning the fight but doesn't kill the person he's fighting. Later in the story, the same person comes back for revenge, and the protagonist manages to win again. Do you think he will kill him this time? What if the stakes are higher? Would the protagonist kill him to save someone else? The protagonist has learned a lesson over the course of the story--change.

    I think change needs to happen for a story to be dynamic and relatable. Even if it is a plot driven story. As someone else mentioned, the absence of change can be just as good. The problem with saying "it's ok for a character to not change" is opening yourself up to create flat, uninteresting characters.

    --Spencer
     
  2. King_Horror

    King_Horror Member

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    I may be a little late to the party, but the question truly tugs at me; here's my two cents on this matter:

    Yes. Main characters need to change. This can be positive, or negative. I, personally, love it when a protagonist turns evil.

    More importantly, characters who do not change will eventually get boring. No matter how sexy, moe/cute, or smart the character is, the reader will get bored. Take any main character from any show that is popular/successful. See how they originally are at the first episode? Now look at the latest episode. Assuming they're still alive, they have most likely changed. People love that, and will remember those kind of characters more.
     
  3. Rick n Morty

    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    Grrr...but like I said, WHAT IF I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING THAT FITS THE STORY?!

    Another poster said that forcing development in that I don't want to do just to please my audience will end up making my story awkward.
     
  4. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I've read through this thread a couple times now, and I'm having trouble understanding how you can't come up with anything. It doesn't have to be some big dramatic, cathartic, epiphany for the character. I get the sense you're looking for something big, and it doesn't need to be big.

    Why don't you write the story and see if it happens organically? In my book, I was worried about a theme, I thought for a while it was just a piece for entertainment. Then as the last sentence of the work was on the page, I realized I had a theme the whole time.
     
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  5. Rick n Morty

    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    So, what you're saying is, let the story do the developing, and not me?
     
  6. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    In a sense, yeah. Just write it. I would probably bet that something comes to you along the way. And if you write it, and theres no growth for the character, you can come back and laugh at all of us when you sign a six figure book deal.

    Either way, it's more productive than stressing about what might or might not happen to the character, right?
    :)
     
  7. King_Horror

    King_Horror Member

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    Thank you for handling Rick n Morty for me.
     
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  8. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The Young Elites is a story with a good example of a protagonist that doesn't change. Rather tragic ending, of course, but nonetheless an excellent story.
     
  9. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    It's not a requirement for any character to change. In mystery, for example, they very often don't.
     
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  10. FireWater

    FireWater Senior Member

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    Nope. There's two types of characters in this regard, called Static and Dynamic. Dynamic characters change, Static characters don't.

    Typically, Static/Non-changing characters are the ones who are enlightened in a story where the others aren't, like if the character is an ahead-of-their-time non-racist person in rural 1950s. Or any other situation where you're shining a light on the things the character faces, as a commentary about society.

    Of course there are other instances too, but that's the one that most comes to mind.
     
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  11. Fara

    Fara New Member

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    Personally for me I like stories where the character themselves either experience some sort of change or alternatively brings about some form of change around them. If one of these two components aren’t present it makes for a pretty boring story for me.


    However, that’s dependant on the genre. With adventure/fantasy I like a bit of both although perhaps slightly more emphasis on changing the world around them.

    With romance it tends to make sense for the change to occur within the character (e.g. they grow and learn to love etc.)

    And in the case of mystery, it’s not so important for any form of drastic change.
     
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  12. Anya ryu

    Anya ryu New Member

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    Can the protagonist doesn't change but the view from the audience on them change instead?
    I'm writing a short story about a girl who likes fire and started with she saying "I likes fireworks". In the story she went to a festival and something went wrong, the canon that was used for the firework blew up and caught the festival on fire she barely get out. After the fire distinguished she went back and described the place and what she did and destroy the evidences. The story ends with her saying "I like fire's work"
    Is it ok like this?
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Of course you can write this. However, the audience will see her differently at the end of the story than they probably did at the beginning.

    At the start, her liking of fireworks may seem either normal or exciting, or may well appeal to people who like fireworks. Lots of people like fireworks. (I'm not one of them, but that's neither here nor there.)

    However, at the end of the story, with her still liking fireworks after that awful tragedy happened, the audience will see her as maybe being trapped by an obsession she doesn't understand or control, or heartless, selfish, or even kinda stupid. That will be the progression of the story.

    She may physically walk away scot-free and mentally unchanged from the fire that her 'hobby' caused, but her reputation with the audience will be irretrievably damaged.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
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  14. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    There is such a thing as a "flat character" arc but usually a story is being told because something important happens that makes it worth being told. Or something important is being discovered. It's impossible to go through things in life and have them NOT affect you. Sometimes small things happen to me in a day and it changes me, not a whole lot, but just a tiny bit. Everyday I am a slightly different person from the one I was yesterday because I experience the world everyday and constantly learn new things and grow as a person. The change in your character doesn't need to be huge, just reflect what they've been through in the story you're telling.
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Jack Reacher is a classic example - there's been close to thirty books now and hes hardly changed at all from the first one
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Some have noted specific characters/series, above. Superhero movies may be another good example, on the whole. It is empirically demonstrable that characters do not have to change for a story to be enjoyed by readers and be successful. One can argue about whether or not it is preferably there is change.
     
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  17. Noir

    Noir Member

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    I like the play on words between the first line and the second line. She was a fire-crazed arsonist all along. You trick your readers into thinking she is just a girl who likes fireworks but after reading the last line, it might make someone go back to reread the first line and interpret it as having "misheard" what she said.

    If this is ever published or you just decide to post the finished work online for people to read, I'd love to a heads up. I'm a sucker for these kinds of short stories where you're lead to believe one thing only to realize that it was your perspective that was skewed all along. I would recommend reading the short-story Hugo Mann's Perfect Soul by R.A. Salvatore (if you're familiar with his work and aren't really a fan then trust me when I say it's nothing like the typical high fantasy that he's known for).

    As for this, I'm sorry I don't really have anything meaningful to add to the discussion but it's just because I've seen some really great advice in here already and I'd just be parroting that if I tried. For what it's worth, I read your story idea and I like it. As the first poster in that thread stated, it can be difficult to judge just a synopsis, but I had no trouble with seeing it in my head and that's a good sign (you also received some pretty good comments and suggestions so I'd really take those in, if I were you).

    Best of luck!
     
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  18. booksofkae

    booksofkae Member

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    I listen to her podcast and it's incredibly helpful. She had a whole series on character arcs that lasted a couple of months. I would recommend the OP listens to them as well as checking out her website.
     
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  19. scrissle

    scrissle New Member

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    I think it's inevitable that over the course of a story a character will change organically, but I don't think your protagonist needs to change for it to be a good story. It'd certainly be a challenge for your character to not change in some way or another––even Bella in Twilight goes from being a normal teenage girl to being a married adult vampire with a daughter. Her personality and motivations remain unchanged, but Bella herself is not entirely the same person she was at the start. I read a book once, The Fat Girl by Marilyn Sachs, where the character doesn't change much and I enjoyed it because the story was more about him realizing why he needed to change over actually changing.
     
  20. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    That works very well for pantsers like myself and my wife Karen. We call it "taking dictation from our characters." Our characters do change, not only the MC, but also secondary supporting characters, of whom we both have quite a few. But we don't pre-plan the changes. In fact, when I finished my first book, which was quite long at 550 pages and with ten or so major characters, I had to ponder to figure out which one was the MC, the one who made the key decisions that moved the plot along. The one I thought would be the MC was a senior Roman officer, roughly equivalent to a Lt Col. However, it turned out that I had subconsciously modeled him on myself, and he exited the story pretty much as he had entered it, a problem solver, confident, no conflicts, no changes.

    I had to add in a conflict on the first revision, and it turned out to be his family. As a Roman officer stationed in the Middle East 2000 years ago with a wife and children in Naples, he had only been home long enough over the past several years to get his wife pregnant, before departing for the frontier for another year or so. At the opening, he was expecting to go home again for an annual visit, but finds himself instead going to China on a mission of several years' duration with no communication. He wound up spending a lot of time on the trip in his quiet moments studying a locket of his wife, convinced she will not be there for him when he returns, that she would not be Penelope to his Odysseus. (she was). It gave him a conflict, he felt himself a failure as husband and father, but throughout the story, he remained just a reliable problem solver, not the MC.

    The MC turned out to be the Senator leading it, though he actually got little time center stage as POV. But he was the one who invested his fortune in the mission, organized it, pressed on when it seemed an abject failure and pulled success from defeat. But then, caught up in court intrigue in China, he must choose between Roman honor and certain death for him and his party, or expediency to complete the mission. He makes the right choice, and after narrowly escaping the death part, relinquishes leadership on the way back to someone he initially despised, better suited to that role. He comes back fifty pounds lighter, has fought to the death several times, has taken orders from 19 year old barbarians, and is very different from the plump, nice but somewhat pompous Senator who left three years before. His choice is unexpectedly vindicated in the end.

    So let the story tell itself, and certainly do not put a contrived conflict in place because someone told you needed one. It will be obvious!
     
  21. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

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    But some characters never change. Somebody has already mentioned James Bond from the movies, and until the latest films he really hasn't changed. Or there's Sherlock Holmes from the books. In both cases, they're already at the top of their game when we first meet them, their flaws don't need to be corrected in order for them to successfully resolve the problems that beset their worlds, and yet they're both cultural icons with a large number of stories behind them.
     
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  22. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Lee Child is 20+ years and 23 novels into his Jack Reacher books, and I'm not sure Reacher has changed much if at all over that time. He still sells a lot of books.
     
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