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Damn Lies

Banes at 12:00AM, Aug. 17, 2017

I'm a bit obsessed with “before” versions of characters. Where they start. The damaged dude or dudette who shows up at the beginning of a story REALLY needing a change in their lives, and usually not knowing it.

Even when the plot kicks off, these folks often don't know what they need, and have avoided looking at it with all the creativity and vigor of a…well, of a human being.

They're an underdog, or just…stuck.

I've heard it expressed differently (though it's the same notion): the character at the beginning of a story
believes a lie about themselves or the world.

It's a lie that's holding them back, again, whether they know it or not (usually not).

It's a safe, comfortable lie, because it's what they're used to.

I believe that the strongest or most ruthless survives
I believe that money and material success is all that matters
I believe that the world is cold and ruthless and I need to screw them over before I get screwed over
I believe my life is always going to be the way it is now

That sorta thing.

And what they THINK they want is often a reflection of this belief of theirs - they often want the wrong thing. Or the right thing, for the wrong reasons.

I've probably talked about this four or five times, but I like the idea of figuring out “the lie the character believes”. Seems like a useful approach to figuring out a character.

Yet another way to begin the process that eventually leads to that beautiful moment of change at the end of the story, where we can smile…maybe a bit tearfully… and say “Lookit! He figured it out!”



bravo1102 at 5:41PM, Aug. 17, 2017

There can also be baby steps throughout, finding pieces and evidence until the realization at the climax which may not be the end of the story. This self-realisation may only be what the character needs to resolve the central issue of the story.

irrevenant at 5:36PM, Aug. 17, 2017

K M Weiland has a whole bunch about this topic on the "writing character arcs" section of her blog "Helping Writers become Authors". I've found it really helpful.

Tantz_Aerine at 11:32AM, Aug. 17, 2017

Very well said. We could say that the heroes journey in itself is that- the character starting off believing one thing, only to have it change towards the end of the hourney, and now believing something else. At least in cases where the character actually develops throughout the story. On another note, I'd say that it's also an element of what the character knows: in the beginning of the journey, the character doesn't know . In the end, the character does, and thus reacts differently than he/she did before. In a sense, the personality itself doesn't necessarily change, just the interpretation of the world that personality reacts to does.

usedbooks at 10:57AM, Aug. 17, 2017

I never really thought of character development like that. Interesting, and I may have been doing that myself unconsciously. I even had a character call another one out on misguided beliefs on more than one occasion. (Most fun is when all the characters believe something untrue about one of them, and only one person can see truth. Of course, that one is seen as the misguided one.)

KimLuster at 6:07AM, Aug. 17, 2017

Excellent! Yes, this is a great way to jumpstart interest in a story. Make it obvious something pretty significant happened to a character before, and they now have a way of thinking that just seems... wrong!! I purposefully did this with the Godstrain (something bad happens to you as a child, and you pretend like it has no affect on you (or you even actively suppress it!)... But its affects can be so deep and insidious... And extremely hard to face and overcome)

ozoneocean at 1:40AM, Aug. 17, 2017

Yesh, it's good when one of the characters follows that journey... Eh, maybe all of them, I don't know. I think Pinky has that about her arc- slowly changing her views on what war and patriotism mean. The Bottomless Waitress girls ALL have the potential for that (no spoilers). It's also interesting that when the character HAS the big revelation and makes the change, they sometimes go back to their old patterns again (as in real life). It can be the most disappointing thing about sequels- because that's how they used to start a lot of them, which forced the character to make the same journey all over again.

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