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Friday, February 22, 2013

Keep Your Protagonist's Growth Authentic

We all know that an engaging external plot can keep readers turning pages. But what about the internal plot of your manuscript? Because in a whole lot of great novels, the protagonist we start with is NOT the one we end with. The external journey they've taken will fundamentally change something about them~ their perspective, their heart, their confidence level, etc.

EXTERNAL EVENTS affect INTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS~ that kind of thing.

Yesterday I was taking a few goofy photos of my daughter and the matter of authenticity sprang to mind. Here is my daughter's hair shortly after birth (about 5 weeks ago):



And here are two pictures of it yesterday:


Most readers can spot a contrived external plot and critique partners/beta readers will generally point those out for you.
Okay, okay, so I faked it.
But the internal plot is something you, as the writer, really need to consider in terms of 
what you want your character to do internally with the external plot elements you hand him.
How do you want him to change because of the experiences you've put him through?

Today I challenge you to take a look at your current manuscript and see whether or not your character has internally changed and if that change is authentic, having gradually built on all of the external factors that you've presented to the reader.

(And I also challenge you to take goofy pictures of your children/spouse/pet/self~ it's a great way to spend a few minutes...until someone walks in the kitchen and says, "Um, what are you doing with the baby?" Then it gets a little awkward)

35 comments:

  1. Jess, love the pictures of your daughter!! I was going to ask - what are you feeding that child?!?!? lol! Fun pics. What a cutie pie!

    I'm on chapter 4 of my new WIP. Been brainstorming on this very subject.

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    1. Congrats on the new WIP~ new projects are always exciting to work on!

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  2. What a cute way to illustrate your point! Love the pictures. You're little precious looks like a real sweetie!

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  3. That is an excellent thought...and now I'm thinking. Does my MC grow enough...ummm...most rush off to evaluate.

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    1. Johanna's such a strong character!

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  4. What? You want character growth...?

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    1. Oh, Andrew! I don't care about character growth--I just needed a post that could revolve around that crazy photo of my baby :) Writing schmiting.

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  5. Great advice, Jess. I love the pictures!

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  6. Excellent tips, Jess! And I'm jealous of your daughter's hair both before AND after. :-)

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  7. I've been think on this a lot lately...and have already made some pretty specific notes on things to mend.

    Great post...and...you goofy! :)

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    1. Thanks, Don! My current WIP needs help with this, which is one of the reasons I posted :)

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  8. Laughing so hard I think I have to go the bathroom now.

    Congratulations! What a beautiful little girl (minus the long hair! :)

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  9. Funny, funny pictures! You made my day!

    I'm back to my writing (hooray!) and your questions are great ones. My protagonist is doing a lot of crying, and I really have to cut back on the tears.

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    1. Congrats on being back to writing!

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  10. So funny. Very strange effect scrolling down. Nice reminder about character and internal change. So important!

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  11. LOL! Love it. But your visualization bears noting. Just as your beautiful little darling's hair growth was contrived - and surely noticed :-) - so it happens with stories where the MC is down in the dumps one second then right as rain a page later with no elaboration of how she/he got to that point. Growth has to be shown so it can be believable. It doesn't have to be drawn out and give the reader a migraine of over-wordage, but it must be shown to be believed.

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  12. You make such a good point--and illustrate it so well! Thanks for the great teaching moment :-)

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  13. I love synching my characters' inner arcs with the plotline, but not as much as I love the silly pics of your daughter!! lol

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  14. Love this and always learn best visually. :-) When I saw the picture of the baby, I was like....what??? Lol! Hope you weekend is wonderful!

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    1. Yeah, she came out with hair, but it hasn't been growing quite that fast ;)

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  15. Hahaha, love the hair pics. I actually know a couple of babies who had about that much hair (in the latter pics) at birth. haha, okay, I'm exaggerating but they did have immense heads of dark hair from the get go!

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    1. If she had come out that way (or even if she'd grown that much since birth) I would have been a little (i.e., a lot) freaked out :)

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  16. My characters have most definitely changed. All of them. :D

    Your daughter had way more hair than mine did as a baby.

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    1. My other one had no hair for quite awhile :)

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  17. I strive to provide realistic growth in my characters. Sometimes though, they take on a life of their own. It's rather strange.

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    1. Yes! It's totally strange, but I can relate :)

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