How much do characters change?

I finally finished my third romance and sent it off to my editor at Kensington.  It took me longer than usual.  My grandson moved in with us for a while, stayed long enough to figure out what he wanted to do next, and then moved out.  The holidays came and went, and so did visitors.  I wrote, but sporadically.  And then I reached the final stretch and pounded out words.  My critique partners, bless them, sped through my draft so that I’d have plenty of time to do rewrites.  And I sent the novel off into the cold, cruel world on Friday, ahead of my Feb. 15 deadline.

This romance has a bigger cast of characters than my last ones.  First off, my editor asked if I’d try for a longer book, closer to 70,000 words than 60,000.  Secondly, I wanted to have more men to juggle for Paula, lucky girl.  And third, I wanted an extra subplot since I was writing longer this time.  I’m not a big fan of love triangles, so I wanted to make sure my novel didn’t have that feel, even with three men in the story.  My editor e-mailed that he probably wouldn’t get to Love on Tap (the current title–but that can always change) until the end of February, so I won’t know if everything worked or not for a while.  But at the moment, I’m pushing it all out of my mind.  I’m ready to move on.

The thing is, I see-sawed back and forth on one of my characters.  I wanted Paula to be attracted to him, but I wanted the reader to know he wasn’t the right guy.  If I made his flaws too obvious, then readers would wonder why Paula was interested in him at all.  As my writer friend put it, “It makes Paula look stupid if she’s attracted to a jerk.”  Okay, I get that.  So I needed Mr. Wrong to be appealing, in some way, to her.  I toned down his flaws to the point that I started to like him.  Not as much as Paula’s real love interest, but enough that I didn’t want the story to end badly for him.

And that brings me to one of my flaws.  I tend to like most people, to see their potential, what’s good in them.  It’s rare that I meet someone and instantly dislike him/her. Another writer friend teases me that it’s hard for me to be mean to my characters.  They might go through rough patches, but I want things to end well for them.  So, I wanted Mr. Wrong to change, to grow, and find a not-as-wonderful, but good-enough happy ending of his own.  And I wrote it that way.  But it didn’t work.  Because when I looked at the story, his character had changed too fast.  He couldn’t cover that much ground in such a short time. Don’t get me wrong.  I think that people can change.  I think it’s hard, but it’s possible.  I think Life buffets us around and makes us change.  But it takes times…and work..and usually some unpleasantness.  Mr. Wrong wasn’t ready yet.  So, unfortunately for him, he ended up in a messy transition instead of a sort-of-happily-ever-after.

I know that characters need to change from the beginning of a book to its end.  But how much?  How much change is realistic?  And what does the character have to endure to force those changes?

Good luck with whatever you’re writing!  And keep your characters your real:)

P.S.  I’ve posted links from Les Edgerton in my blog before, but he gave a speech for the Oklahoma Writers Association that’s pretty useful for writers:  http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/2016/01/keynote-speech-at-owfi.html?spref=fb

His link on outlining:  http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/2010/04/outlining.html

And if you’re interested, Kensington is offering a contest for readers to win my first romance, COOKING UP TROUBLE, by Judi Lynn (my pen name for romance): https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/172144-cooking-up-trouble

 

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8 thoughts on “How much do characters change?

  1. Isn’t that wonderful! You must be do happy to have that done! I love hearing your process. I never realized I ended chapters on the upswing – like you, I didn’t want to be too rough on the characters. I’m learning how to put them through their paces- just like you!
    I can’t wait for April. Got my copy!

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  2. Really liked Les Edgerton’s blog. Got me back on track with a stall I’ve been in with WIP, mainly overthinking it. And wish I had time to articulate what I write/have written as you do in this blog. Your ability to wrap up storylines at the end of each work is so personally constructive. Clarifies and paves the way for the next story.

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  3. Well, stupid me. I had no idea that you wrote under a pen name, too. I’m going to have to check out that link. Congrats on getting your ms done and shipping it off to your editor. I’m working up against a deadline on my latest, and gnawing my fingernails in the process.

    I’m a big believer in characters changing. I especially love when a flawed/villain character ends up not being as bad as expected. I guess it’s the HEA-loving person in me. Even if the character doesn’t get his own HEA, just the idea that he/she has moved toward change gives me a warm glow . 🙂

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  4. Not stupid you! My first book doesn’t come out until April 12. I have enough urban fantasy books online that my agent wanted a pen name for my romances, but I have mixed feelings about it. I love my agent, though, so went with Judi Lynn. In the first book, hopefully, the “bad” girl ended up being pretty decent. But in this last book, I wanted the character to change so much, I pushed it too hard, and had to go back and give him a baby step, so there’s hope, but not a lot. Like you, I’d have a HEA for every character, if I could:)

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    1. Ok, I feel a little better now, LOL. Please let me know if I can help you with promo when you’re ready. Urban fantasy is great, too, so if you’d like a spot on my blog just give me a shout (my email is on my blog).

      It’s great you have an agent. I’m still doing this stuff on my own. One of these days I really need to sit down and start writing letters.

      Looking forward to your release. I signed up for the giveaway!

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