2015 comment: Pay careful attention to this one. I think this is one of the most frequently missed aspects in first drafts and first manuscripts. There has to be a reason for your story. Your character must “Grow”.
In the closing comments of the Gold Mine Manuscript, the Publisher who red-lined it noted that the MC didn’t “Grow enough”.
For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine? You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar. Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.
They said the main character does not have a struggle in the story that pulls him from one state of being to another. They thought he was pretty much the same at the end of the novel as he was in the beginning.
I’m not really sure I completely agree about this comment. I saw little changes in the character throughout the novel. I suppose the problem was the presentation of the final scene. The author wound down from a big action scene very well, and in the end, the MC is relaxing and thinking.
I am just guessing here, but maybe the Main Character’s thoughts should have reflected HOW he is changed. Maybe he should be thinking: “Wow, I was such a stuck up prude, and the world used to revolve around me, and now I just put my life on the line and fought an army and stood up for myself to protect a whole kingdom!”
Okay, that was really bad, but do you get my meaning? Again, this is totally a guess, but this publisher is looking for “the change”… What happens to the MC along the journey that makes him or her a better person? This, again, brings me back to my own novel (and you should be thinking about yours)
Does my main character change? Well, yes.
- He starts out confident,
- Gets ripped away from his family, get unconfident.
- He gets the approval of the King, gets confident,
- He leaves the King’s house, gets picked on all the time, and gets unconfident again
- Finally, in the end, he steps up to the plate, and proves his worth in the climax.
However—does he think about this in the closing scene? Well, no, he doesn’t. But… in the last few lines there is another change that slaps the reader in the face with an “Oh my Gosh!”
My overall change, like in the Gold Mine Manuscript, happens during the climax. Then there is this little hook after the wind-down in the last paragraph, which could be considered an epiphany. It includes another change, and then a “no way!” Is this going to fly in the publisher’s opinion? Dunno.
I changed my ending a lot in the last year to make sure my MC changes. I had him fall in love, I had him not be in love, I had him flat, I dealt with amnesia, I had him accept who he was, I had him outright refuse to be the “chosen one”… yikes what I put this kid though!
Admittedly in the first draft, he really didn’t change at all… at least on the inside. I didn’t know this was a pre-requisite for story-writing. Now, I think the change is there. At least, I THINK THAT’S WHAT I WROTE (Go back and read that post if you don’t remember it)
I hope my stab at an exciting last page didn’t “blow it” but I guess that’s for the publishers to decide.
2015 addendum: Three years after writing this original post, I am VERY conscious of character change. My stories have both a “plot” arc (The exciting stuff that happens in the story) and a “character arc” (How the characters *all of them* change throughout the story.)
Take a good look at your manuscript. How do your primary and secondary characters change as events of the story unfold? Are they the same person?