How do you write good character development without making it seem forced?

by Tammy
(Michigan )

Question: I want to make my character go from a shy, quiet girl, who has trouble communicating into a strong, friendly girl, who will stand up for herself and her friends if she needs to.

Now, I want the change to seem natural and not forced.

Her friend Kelly is going to be the one to point it out to my character but I want the reader to notice the change before hand.
How do I do that realistically?

Answer: The basic formula for a character arc is...

1. Setup: Describe an event which demonstrates how the character copes with situations in the beginning -- with shyness and not standing up for herself.
2. Complications: Describe events in which she is pressured to change.
3. Crisis: Put her in a personal crisis where she is forced to make a choice between doing things her old way or taking a risk and responding in a different way. Make sure there's a lot at stake.
4. Resolution: Describe an event that shows that she has changed and whether she is better off for it.

At the same time, let her see Kelly handling situations with the opposite approach. Give Kelly her own arc that will be an example for your main character.

And give their relationship an arc. Give them values and/or a perspective they share that other people don't, so that the relationship is important to both of them. That will also create pressure for your MC to reconsider her approach.

That's what to do. Qualities like "natural" and "realistic" are the result of how you do it. They are hard to define. But if the events you describe feel authentic to you, that's the first hurdle. The second is whether they feel authentic to someone else. For that, you have to let some other people read what you've written and see if it seems authentic to them. (Generally, you have to explain things in more detail for your readers so they can understand your vision.)

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