Showing that characters are capable of change

If your character changes significantly during the course of your story, we need to believe that she's among those human beings capable of change. We've all known people who are so rigid in their beliefs or behavior that they'll never change. They're locked into views of the world they acquired at some earlier stage of life, and it's useless to present them with any other ideas. They don't hear them, even though they may appear to be listening. They can't hear. They have too much invested in their current world views, and it would be too threatening to be wrong. Your character, however, isn't like that. She's capable oflearning from experience.

How do you make us believe that? By showing him doing it.

If, for instance, Sam is an evasive and unemotional father but capable of seeing his own deficiencies once the level of crisis is high enough, then you show Sam doing just that in some dif ferent, unrelated crisis earlier in the book. Maybe you give us a flashback to Sam's days in Vietnam. He remained aloof from the men in his platoon, acting as ifhe weren't actually there (because he wished he weren't). Some crisis on a dangerous reconnaissance, however, forced him into emotionally risky affiliation with someone else, and Sam rose to the occasion. You give us this in a flashback. This flashback both helps us understand Sam better and prepares us for his eventual reconnection with his daughter—after Martha's behavior has become desperate enough.

Or maybe a war scene wouldn't fit with the tone of your novel. So instead you show us Sam in a more domestic crisis, perhaps involving his aging mother, who has to move into a nursing home. When the situation is heated enough, Sam comes through. Not before, and not happily—but he does come through.

Even small parts of scenes can foreshadow your character's ability to become whatever you eventually have him become. Though Elizabeth Bennet dislikes Mr. Darcy for most of Pride and Prejudice, we believe her eventual change of heart toward him for two reasons. First, we see that Elizabeth is capable of changing her opinion when there is real evidence: In earlier scenes she revises her opinion of George Wickham, Charles Bingley and Charlotte Lucas. Second, we see that she has a high regard for behavior that is ethical, generous and self-effacing. When Darcy behaves in those ways about Elizabeth's sister's disastrous elopement, it's not difficult to accept that his behavior would have an effect on Elizabeth's opinion of him.

Foreshadow your protagonist's major change by (1) showing he's capable of other changes, and (2) showing values he holds that make changing his mind plausible.

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