Today I have Julie Hutchings from Deadly Ever after swinging by to talk about how characters grow in our writing.
Julie's second novel RUNNING AWAY released recently - and as the second in a series, it's proof on how characters can grow and change within a series.
Character Growth In A Series (You Can Do It!)
by Julie Hutchings
YOU DID IT.
You wrote a character that readers loved. A character with heart, spine, fears, opinions, downfalls, quirks, a purpose, the whole lot.
GREAT JOB. THAT'S A BIG DEAL.
Anybody can write a character. A lot of people can write a character that readers care about, relate to, even dislike. Not everyone can write a character that sticks to the soul.
BUT YOU DID THAT. SO, PUT YOUR FEET UP AND ORDER A DRINK.
Or. Freak out because now it's time to write a sequel.
How in hell are you supposed to give us the same character we loved in the first book, but keep them interesting and not just....the same?
Creating character growth in a single book is HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD DIFFICULT. And now it's time to up the ante. The challenge is in giving your readers the character they love, but not boring them. While consistency is good, stagnancy is not. There are small ways and big whopper ways to battle stagnancy.
I would like to think I could wear an I SURVIVED THE BATTLE OF STAGNANCY t-shirt.
Show the character’s growth, don’t tell us they grew. Like this:
Now if a friend in real life triumphed over the obstacles your characters have, they'd be changed. Your friend probably would not be entirely different unless they suffered a nervous breakdown, a witness protection something or other, or died and returned, that kind of thing. They would still have their same quirks.... a penchant for scratch tickets, an addiction to a certain flavor of toothpaste, a hatred for Superman. These are the little endearing things that speak of an insider’s intimacy when you see them. Not everyone would notice, but you do. It's your private joke, or the thing you always try to protect your friend from. Reminders of the time you two have shared.
Make sure your writing feels like the characters are letting us inside; not just that the character is special, but the reader feels special with them.
In my first book, RUNNING HOME, Eliza has Golden Grahams every morning with her best friend and roommate, Kat. Every day. (It's prevalent enough that I have received Golden Grahams as a gift in her honor.) After everything that Eliza endures, her stomach turns at the sight of the cereal in the second book. It's a subtle indication that her very core has changed. The other way this could have gone would be if Eliza choked back the nausea and pushed herself to eat that first bite anyway; it would have indicated that she was struck by the events that passed, but she was going to overcome what they'd done to her. Make the subtle quirks speak of something larger. Use the tiny details to define the character and how the character has changed or stayed the same.
It’s letting the reader get to know the character intimately and then keeping them connected to the character that way that helps us feel growth in a character.
Another way to grow your character that may sound incredibly simple, but….. well, it is actually, is to *drum rollllllll*
HAVE THEM DECLARE IT SO.
Sorta like this: “But, Lord Monstravous, you have always done it this way! It is your very nature to torture pot-bellied pigs and laugh about it! It has been thus since you were that twelve year old boy in Venice in the first book!”
Lord Monstravous rips his evil cape off, his heart tearing a little as the fabric that had been a part of him since he was a kid tore in two. “I am not that child anymore. I am not that man anymore.”
Part of major growth is realizing it’s occurred. The acknowledgement of it should be a momentous thing. It of course works the other way, too.
“You can do this, Lord Monstravous! You can be a better man, a better ruler to us all!”
Lord Monstravous tightened the cape that had left a permanent mark on his neck as he grew. He lifted his chin and said, “I am the evil dictator of this land. I may be a man now, in this sequel, but I will stay true to the twisted heart of that little boy in Venice.”
In acknowledging that he has not and will not change, the charming thing has shown growth. It implies that he’s been trying to change, and the rest of his story would naturally have to support this, but that in the end he made the choice not to change.
But saying it out loud is key.
Take the character growth of the first book and twist it to teach the character something new about what they initially learned. Or bring them back to the beginning of their story.
Sometimes, the journey brings a character back to where they originally were and they realize that it was where they wanted to be all along. Think of the Rocky movies, and how he returned to his roots in the fifth one; the same streets, the same jacket he wore, all the same old stuff. True to himself.
The simple thing about growing a character from book one to the following books is that as human beings, we are always learning. Always changing. A person doesn’t reach one profound truth and then quit life; we search continually for new beginnings, new reasons and purposes. To draw on that in your novel is just a matter of saying it out loud, having a character that knows they’ve changed and having that character continue to draw upon that change, or search for a new one.
Try this: Think of an event that has changed you as a person. How did it affect the next monumental event in your life? Link the two together as an end result.
Becoming homeless taught Karen that she was resilient even when her life had been easy. Becoming a homeless mother made her not only resilient, but soft in a way she never had been.
Now, document the growth. IN YOUR BOOK. WRITE THE BOOK THAT WILL CHANGE YOU.
About the Author Julie Hutchings:Julie’s debut novel, Running Home, giving you vampires with a Japanese mythology pants kicking is available through Books of the Dead Press. Julie revels in all things Buffy, has a sick need for exotic reptiles, and drinks more coffee than Juan Valdez and his donkey combined, if that donkey is allowed to drink coffee. Julie’s a black belt with an almost inappropriate love for martial arts. And pizza. And Rob Zombie. Julie lives in Plymouth, MA, constantly awaiting thunderstorms with her wildly supportive husband and two magnificent boys.
Julie on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HutchingsJulie
Julie’s Blog: http://deadlyeverafter.com/
Julie on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7104966.Julie_Hutchings
Other books by Julie:
Running Home on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17977192-running-home
Running Home on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Running-Home-Julie-Hutchings-ebook/dp/B00EEG42IM/ref=la_B00GP8UJWA_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411445505&sr=1-1
Don’t forget to join in on the book buzz using hashtag #RunningAway