A character will stay stuck in their ways if they can, just like a real person tends to. It takes effort to move forward and achieve things. And we resist.
In the beginning of a story, a character might feel comfortable where they are, but they are usually incomplete in some way. Maybe they already want something when the story starts. Usually they gain that desire in the first Act (unless it's a shorter piece of fiction).
So they resist…they stall…they put it off…until they get a push. Or the desire becomes too powerful to ignore. They go forward! And they get a taste of what life can be like…what THEY can be like…if they keep going.
But then it gets harder. They, like most of us, are tempted to go back. Back to when things were simpler. Sure, things weren't perfect. We may have even been kind of miserable. But changing is so. Damn. Hard. What's the point? Why are we doing this?
The stakes may be too high to go back without doing too much damage. Or we've seen enough now, our world has been expanded enough that we CAN'T really go back. Maybe we're trapped by our new circumstances and HAVE to keep going for the moment.
But then it gets REALLY bad. Things have gone too far. We've had a little taste of victory, maybe. But it seems like the taste of pain is much more powerful. It's more pain and loss than we could have dreamed possible back when this lunacy began. At this point we may try to go all the way back to the beginning again. To leave this behind. Or we may just shut down completely.
We may wish for death, even. Things are worse than they were before the whole thing started!
But somehow, we find the strength to carry on. Maybe people need us. Maybe we have a reserve of strength after all! Maybe we can find a new way to get through this! We go for it!
The points of decision in a story are big moments; they mark the growth of a character, and show them able to do things toward the end that they never could have even conceived of in the beginning!
But I think for most stories, characters should have to be forced into it. They have to be dragged into changing, kicking and screaming.
Otherwise it'd be too easy!
As I try to make positive changes in my own life, I turn to stories to find the lessons, and the strength, to make it happen. And I try to remember that my impulse to go backwards is the most human of tendencies.
And I try to rally myself to get up, and keep going!
I knew I studied this writing jazz for a reason…
Banes at 12:00AM, Feb. 23, 2017
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