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How do your characters grow?

I’m in the process of plotting my next series of books. As always, I start my plotting with the characters because my books are character-based novels. I have to admit, with this series, the story kernel idea was one of plot and not character. But before I actually begin to plot the stories, I need to know who my characters are and that includes how they’re going to grow and change through the course of the story.

The kernel idea is the most basic question that is asked, the one that starts you thinking “Hey! I’ve got to write a story about that!”. It’s usually in the form of a “What if…?” but it doesn’t have to be.

For my next series, which I’m sure you’ll all be hearing a lot about as I write the three books, the very first idea was that of the story trope of the Prince and the Pauper. I love that story and the concept of an ordinary person who has to assume the role of a prince and take it on convincingly so that no one knows that they’re not the royal in question.

It’s a plot idea. But in order for me to develop it into a story, I had to quickly move into thinking about the characters who would inhabit those roles – of the royal and the commoner. Who are they? And how and why do they switch places? Of course, that quickly expanded into a trilogy of books—one being the switch, another being the story of the royal whose place is taken, and then a third, which is the reason why the royal was otherwise engaged and couldn’t fulfill their role which is, of course, a third main character.

If you write character-based novels where the emphasis of the story is on the characters, rather than the plot, as I do then you’ve got to thoroughly develop your characters in order to create the plot. You need to know not only their internal and external goal, motivation, and conflict, but you need to know how they are going to grow and change through the course of the story.

It is this growth that is going to drive the plot.

So, despite the fact that my concept started with the plot, I needed to quickly shift my emphasis onto the characters in order to know precisely how the plot needed to progress. I need to know where my character is at the start of the story and what they need to learn by the end.

How does anyone learn something that will change who they are? How do we as human beings grow and develop? By having momentous things happen to us. As we figure out how to navigate life and all that it throws at us, we learn and grow. So, as an author, I need to figure out what it is that life is going to throw at my characters so that they are forced to learn what they need to. That is the backbone of my plot, these scenes that will force my character to grow.

So, what is it that you need to throw at your characters? What is it that they need to learn? How do they need to develop? And how are you going to get them there?

Merry
 

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s heart belongs to her husband and two children. Meredith’s second favorite pastime is teaching others to write.

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