Beyond the Words Episode 12: Initiating Change in Your Characters, with B. Lynn Goodwin

Beyond the Words Episode 11: The First Conflict, with Felicity Banks
July 13, 2017
Beyond the Words Episode 13: Character Development, with Matt Pike
July 27, 2017

This week, join Holly as she talks to B. Lynn Goodwin, author of Talent, about the process of initiating change in characters. Includes a review of Talent at the end.

To get a copy of Talent, click here.


Initiating change in your characters is simply a matter of circumstance. If your character doesn’t learn his lesson, then what kind of a story do you have? A very, very boring one. If the character simply fails over and over again, the plot doesn’t progress. It’s like playing a video game and always dying in the same place. Eventually, you’re going to get annoyed and bored enough to turn off the game and do something else.

It’s the same with reading. If I see a character that does the same stupid thing over and over again, I’m going to stop reading. It’s why I stopped reading Lemony Snicket, after all. The same story, over and over again? Boring.

So what circumstance do you need to initiate change?

Well, as long as you have your characters, and you know where they want to go, you can initiate change. You want to turn that racist slave-owner into a virtuous angel? Aside from the old ‘taste of his own medicine’ trope that gets bandied about, you can start playing with him. He’s been broken by decades of slaves that come through, looking beautiful, but not his? What about a woman who is so mangled that he can’t help his curiosity. He gets to know her, despite his own self telling him not to. She sits there, poor and damaged, for days-months-years!, and he starts thinking of her as a person again, not property.

And then something happens to her. She’s bought, killed, driven mad, you name it. Suddenly the hard-hearted slave owner is broken-hearted. He liked his friend. Suddenly the slaves don’t look the same to him, he can’t look at them as property anymore.

Boom. One slaver out of his trade, and a character that has changed so dramatically he might as well change his name to bob, move north and open a bakery selling delicious, vegan pies.

Find a circumstance, one that grows out of your first conflict and continues to plague the character, and build slowly. Show how he is changing, and then, when you think he’s ready, fling him back into his original situation. You’ll suddenly see a contrast, and that is the lovely character development we all seek.


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