What Do You Look for in Character Evolution

Nintendo Character Evolutions

One of the benefits to writing a series is that you get to extend your character’s evolution. They don’t have to fully mature by the end of the first book. This is something for readers to remember too. Once a character hits his or her final form, the adventure has to eventually come to a close or you devolve them. Look at comic book characters and the sudden rise of reboots because they’ve done everything for decades. With novels, you don’t really have this luxury. You need to raise your character at a proper, steady rate to an endgame. Going further can weaken your character and series.

I like a slow growth with ups and downs. A character that wins and loses is believable because you can’t always win or lose. Even if you win, there can be a twist or a sacrifice to it. Save the damsel, but lose your hand type of thing. For me the character must be evolved by their decisions and situations. You can’t step into a war or decide to let someone die to save someone else without changing. That isn’t human and reeks of lazy storywriting. Doubt, grief, anger, fear, happiness, sadness, numbness, determination, and all the other emotions are needed for this evolution.

So, what do you look for in character evolution?

Legends of Windemere: Prodigy of Rainbow Tower Coming July 31st!!!!

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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22 Responses to What Do You Look for in Character Evolution

  1. llamadean says:

    I had a pair of characters that were best friends and they had a really good nature, but then one day something happened in the story which caused Matt to snap and kill his best friend, and then he changed dramatically. Then the shock of killing his best friend affected him so much that even his abilities altered and changed with the new person he became: a more serious dark natured character.

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  2. mswoolsey22 says:

    I look for changes in personality and character. Events throughout their stories bring about changes, either for the better or the worse.

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    • I love how you added ‘or the worse’ on there. A lot of people don’t look at that as evolution. So many readers think positive change is the only sign of a good hero or villain evolution.

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  3. spoplawski says:

    Your question “what do you look for in character evolution?” does not include this basic rule/limitation that should be considered: the characters’ evolution reflects the author’s personality and spiritual development. The characters will be more convincing/true when beside their personalities, easily expressed by their motivations, if we can also notice some traces of spirituality in their behavior/actions.
    The point is that this topic (especially spirituality that involves the soul’s notion) is very complex and difficult to define as intuition, faith, feelings with other abstract elements start to play in it. However, we can see clearly some final fruits of manifested spirituality when certain characters are more or less inspiring the readers/watchers in comparison to other/previous ones.

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    • In regards to spirituality, it is part of the character evolution. The abstract elements you describe are necessary for a character to be more than words on a page. Yet, as in real life, the events that the character is involved in will mold those. It can deviate from where the author personally is, but that’s the trick. If every character stayed within the author’s reflection then they will have severely limited evolution paths. A key part of being a fiction author is to write mentalities and personalities that differ from your own. It could be as simple as thinking of the opposite of what you really feel, but you need that versatility to have a few novels under your belt.

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  4. spoplawski says:

    “to write mentalities and personalities that differ from your own” can be claimed, but it will always carry the author’s pattern that can be noticed from different receptions/views. If it is quickly recognizable the author needs a rest or work harder when not acting this way at the first place.
    🙂 – I am just teasing.

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    • You do bring up a point though. An author’s stress and situation comes through in the writing. If all of the characters are having a difficult period then you can safely assume that the author came up with it during a rough point in their life.

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  5. Allen Watson says:

    I’m always nervous about character development, especially with a series. When reading a series, there are often so many characters to get to know that it can be overwhelming. I am always please if, by the end of the book, they have all developed at about the same rate. I wrote about how I really know I’m taking a liking to characters in my post – I want characters that I can sleep with… http://wp.me/p3hCwM-4t.

    Now, evolving a character takes finesse on the part of the author. Making it believable and creating the right situations for a character to shift is a talent.

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    • Series are tough, but it helps to decide the endgame for each character. Even if it’s a vague ‘he lives or dies’ decision. In my series, I have 6 core characters that I evolve by giving each one a purpose in each book. It might be a subplot or a single scene that touches them. Meanwhile, I pick 1 or 2 of the mains to be the focus of the overall story.

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  6. I tend to agree when it comes to character development and prefer a slow burn. I’m also pleasantly surprised when a character has a not so flowery revelation about the world but chooses to fight for it anyway.

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  7. Olivia Stocum says:

    I like slow change. People tend to change in increments.

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  8. Like you said I’d look for a gradual change in attitude and behaviour. Of course it’s not easy at all, sometimes I have problems even if I consider it one if the most important aspects of the book! What I think also is that you never finish to learn and change, it’s life…so I think it’s virtually impossible write a real end!

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  9. Patti Hall says:

    Hi Charles,
    First, I’m the kind of person who tells you when you have lettuce on a tooth. Uhm, you have…a missing letter in your post title:>)
    I like a series character to fall and rise just enough to leave room for a fall and rise in the next book.
    Patti

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  10. I’ve always been fond of character evolution where the character gradually heads toward something, and then something momentously life-changing and their entire world view changes. I love that plot because then the character suddenly has their whole outlook shifted, and they have to struggle to figure out how to deal with it, when they have almost no experience doing so. Did you watch Avatar: The Last Airbender? It’s kind of like when Zuko finally switches to the good side — suddenly he’s trying to help the Avatar instead of hunt him down, and he just fails over and over. Fun fun fun 🙂

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  11. Pingback: What makes a good love story? | Frippits.

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