Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How to think about change in our own lives, others and our characters.

So I wasn’t sure what to write about until I read a post from Then I started thinking about change, (You’ll learn that change is one of my big thoughts) what can change and how do we write change. So….

There is this thing called the “fundamental attribution error” it is an error that we make when trying to figure out why a person does something. Think about someone cutting you off in traffic, how do you describe that person, what are the first things that come to your mind. Studies have found that generally we overweight attributes that are stable (race, age, sex, things that don’t change personality) and underweight attributes that do change (pregnant wife in the car, texting on cell phone, sick, things that can be changed.)

One of the big things that we overweight is personality. Personality for the most part does not change and yet, how often do we try to change our own personality or someone else’s. A movie that has many different types of change is Lord of The Rings. Study the difference between how Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry (spelling may be wrong sorry about that) change. Their personality, race, sex all stay the same yet their behaviors change drastically. At the end Pippin and Merry are still goofs but they take on more responsibility. Sam is still the “mother hen” but he has a lot more confidence. Frodo who has changed the most is still Frodo but has a much greater weight on him.

The way people change is most often slow and hardly noticed, like the hobbits. Other times we have drastic changes like in the case of Gandalf going from the Grey wizard to the white. Look at the people you have known the longest. How do they change? Have you noticed the changes?  This is how our characters need to change as well. They should change over time except for in extreme instances. The changes will be perceivable but only slightly. At the end of the book readers should recognize the change but while reading, it should almost be imperceptible. Once again back to Frodo think about how he changed, it was not unnatural and rushed but slow and steady.

How do you write change in your books? Do you think personality can change? Share with the rest of us so we can all learn together J


  1. I know that when I'm writing I do put too much emphasis on showing change in the character through their personality and not through their actions. Our characters should be intelligent beings who not just avoid what they don't like, but can work around their weaknesses in personality. That is where we see the change, in their understanding of their capabilities and growth of talent, not in a personality makeover to fit the given situation.

  2. I like to see the subtle changes as well, not huge, drastic, unrealistic changes. And I LOVE Lord of the Rings. That was a very good example to use as a reference.

  3. Hmmm...that's a toughie. I do think people change over time. I feel as if I'm more different than I was fifteen years ago.

    In books, I usually try to show change by how the MC is in the beginning of the story--by establishing what they believe either about themselves or others.
    Then you have to give them a lesson that will cause them to change that belief. By the end you can actually see if they think or feel the same way when given a circumstance that forces them to choose an action based on what they believe.
    Confused? LOL

  4. Great post and I love The Lord of the Rings :)

    I think you're right on about personality changes.

  5. I think all changes have to be hollistic. In this case I mean it has to happen slowly, naturally, and be realistic. No one can change overnight, so I find that to ake change in my characters realistic, I try and sprinkle a few pointers here and there. Unless the change is monumntal, it usually happens over a period of time.

  6. D U: I agree it does need to be holistic and it does generally happen over a period of time.

    Charmaine: Thanks for the personal example. It was great and describes how personality stays the same but our behavior changes.

    This has been a great discussion and I have learned a lot from all of the posts thanks to all who participated.

  7. Realistically, changes come over time and with discipline. In fiction, I like to see people making decisions to alter the way they do things and charge charge of their situation to end up with a better outcome.

  8. J.L. I agree it is nice to see how people change and see how they approach similar situations differently


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