I have to be honest about this post. I’m not sure what I originally meant by ‘Growing a Character’ when I saw it on the list of topics. Somebody probably suggested it and I thought the note would be enough. Oops. Yet I like a challenge and I have a vague idea of what I’m going to talk about.
Earlier this month, I wrote about married heroes and mentioned Spider-Man going from high school dweeb to adult hero with a wife. Well, I couldn’t find a picture for that, so I went for Link . . . what? Anyway, these two characters can be seen as examples of growth.
- Spider-Man goes through phases of life that all of us can face. Growing up, dating, graduating from high school, getting a job, paying bills, marriage, deal with Satan to undo that marriage, body taken over by Doctor Octopus, wondering why your ancient Aunt May has returned from the dead more times than Jean Grey . . . where was I going with this? Ah, yes. Ridiculousness of comic stories aside, the character grows up and readers follow along as they grow up. If one is already adult then they can see something in the hero’s past to connect to.
- Link is reborn in nearly every one of his video games. It’s a hero cycle where evil is coming, a hero appears, evil strikes, the hero gains the ability to stop evil, and then stops evil. This isn’t a story about ongoing character growth, but you can see the hero evolution go from beginning to end in one story. There’s no back issues or older games to search for to get the whole picture. Unlike Spider-Man, Link is simple and compact every time he appears.
Now these are from comics and video games, which are totally different from books. A series allows for a long investment into character evolution. Take Luke Callindor in Legends of Windemere and welcome to any new readers who didn’t see this one coming. He is very immature and untested at the beginning. More so than the other champions and characters since they’ve veterans in some way. Luke is very green and you get to see him go from dreaming of being a hero to starting his adventure and then into actually filling the role. There’s a ‘coming of age’ aspect to his story, which is why he has a lot more personal life bumps and tragedies than the others. One could even say his friends have paid their dues early on like Sari being introduced with the murder of her clan and Nyx losing her family before the series begins. Delvin and Timoran are veteran warriors too, so they’ve lost friends. For all of his courage and skills, Legends of Windemere is where Luke Callindor earns his hero scars and losses. This is growth for him and the reader gets to see it from beginning to end.
I guess going with any character from beginning to end is how I define growth. There’s evolution in their abilities and mindset. You shouldn’t see the same character that was there at the beginning. At least not entirely since there has to be something remaining from the original even if it’s a spark. Again, this is easier in a lengthy series, but you can do it in a standalone too. An adventure is an adventure, so it’s all about your focus and timeline.
What do you think about character growth and what do you do to achieve it?