Character Change/Growth throughout series

by Terrell
(Columbia, MO)

Hello my question is focused on my protagonist in the fact on how I want him/her to change into a villain/bad guy/anti-hero like role.

So my question is: do I start my character off with dark,shady, and shameful-like characteristics(kind of like Michael Corleone of the Godfather series) and have them remain the same in that regards throughout the series? Or is it alright to have a protagonist start off as a complete and admirable good-guy and have him become a villainous and more dark character (like Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader of the Star Wars Series)?

PS. I also want to note that I would like to do this in a series timeline, not necessarily in one book.

Answer: I assume you're writing a series that is ultimately a tragedy?

For a main character to work, he still needs the reader's empathy at the beginning. The reader needs to be comfortable putting himself in the character's shoes.

So even if he starts out as a rather dark character, he needs to be relatively dark. In other words, he may have qualities that make him bad but not as bad as his antagonists. Or he might be bad, but be charming. Or he might have dark qualities, but they are qualities that the reader can sympathize/empathize with because we all have them. If he's a total villain, the reader will have a harder time liking him.

If you want him to start out as a good guy, you should probably still give him an emotional wound or flaw that makes him vulnerable.

However he starts out, you will want to create a Story Goal for the series as a whole. In the pursuit of that goal, he should feel pressured to change, to give up the qualities that make him seem redeemable in order to achieve that goal. (He may not really need to change to achieve the goal, but he feels he needs to.)

His mistake will be to change. And as a result of that mistake, things go downhill for him.

An example you might consider is Macbeth. Macbeth starts as a hero, having won great victories serving his country and received new titles from the king. He's a man of honour. We then see him pressured to become more ambitious and use murder to get ahead, but his internal conflict over it still makes him seem redeemable. The big turning point is when he abandons all sense of morality and starts killing potential enemies willy-nilly. That causes everyone to gang up on him.

(The trouble with Anakin is that his only appealing qualities are his skills and the fact that he longs for a woman's love. As a slave-boy in the first film, he didn't seem to be suffering very much, nor was he particularly charming or admirable, so he didn't evoke much sympathy or empathy. In the second film, he was a selfish and petulant teenager - again, not very sympathetic or empathetic. After that, he just went downhill.)

If you don't want to write a tragedy - if you want your character to be a bad guy who wins - you will have a harder time earning the reader's sympathy. It's hard to feel sorry for someone who deserves to be punished and isn't.

Comments for Character Change/Growth throughout series

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May 01, 2013
Thank You
by: Anonymous

Thanks again for your help.

Nov 13, 2013
Creating A Villainous Character
by: Kimberly Stevenson

If you want to have a character start out cheerful and happy, go ahead! If you want to start out with him being villainous, that's fine too! It doesn't matter. Maybe the villainous character could seem cheerful, but really be a villain. Or he could seem villainous, and be cheerful. It doesn't matter! play with your ideas!

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