Author Topic: Character Development in Sequels  (Read 6085 times)

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Offline Whizbee

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Character Development in Sequels
« on: June 11, 2008, 04:19 PM »
When writing a series, do you plan out your mc's development beforehand or figure it out as you go along? How do you know the best way for you mc to grow over the length a series? I suspect this has to do with the overarcing goal s/he faces in the series as a whole, but I'm wondering how to show a mc's growth as happening a little at a time in each book along the way.
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Offline Jen

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2008, 04:28 PM »
I can't imagine actually planning out a character's growth in any kind of detail, but I'm not much of a planner.  For me, character growth is something that happens as a function of who the character is, what they go through, and how those two things interact.  If I follow a character through enough life events, they're going to evolve in response to those events, and for me as a writer, though I could plan the events and the kind of growth I wanted, the interaction between all of the different elements would be much more difficult to plan, and without that interaction, I'd be afraid that things would come out as very forced.

Offline ecb

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2008, 12:22 PM »
I almost asked this same question about a year ago, when it looked like my upcoming WIP might turn into a series.  I thought the character might have more adventures in her, but I wasn't sure how *she* was going to evolve.

Turns out, I never needed to ask the question, because as Jen notes, she's evolved naturally as I write.  When I write, I have a bad habit of thinking ahead--way, way ahead--so while I'm working on Chapter 10 of Book 1, I'm thinking about the climax in Book 3, and I can really see how she's going to grow and develop.

Of course, all of that will change to some degree as I do the actual writing, too. 

So I guess my answer is, in part, wait and get to know her better.  As you throw obstacles in her way, she'll show you what she's made of, what she needs, and what her faults are.  And those will draw her through the continuing stories in future volumes.

Good luck!
 
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Offline kadje70

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2008, 01:48 PM »
Great thread!  I am interested to hear what everyone has to say about this.

It helps me to know ahead of time how things are generally going to end up for my characters.  I say generally because as ecb mentioned, things change once you start writing.  I also think about the underlying theme of the book.  For example, a theme of my WIP  questions when war is worth the cost of a loved one.  With that in mind, my MC will lose one of his best friends in battle which will bring him to question everything he believes. 

I like to know the big events of my story and that way create the smaller happenings that 'grow' the characters.  Does that make sense?  I'm not sure - I keep getting interupted by my five yr. old and I'm not even sure what I'm talking about anymore.   :eh2
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Offline Duskydawn

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2008, 03:38 PM »
I have a similar question/challenge... My book-under-contract has the introduction to the MC's story and now I'm going to write a proposal outlining the sequel. I know how the MC's story begins and how it ends, but then there's a breath in-between. I know there will be character development, but there has to be enough challenge/tension/action/etc. in the *middle* to make it a book on its own.

I believe that the second book in a series is often the weakest, a bridge between two strong pillars. How do you make this second story (part two of three) be an end onto itself and just as strong as a stand-alone...while simultaneously & seamlessly fitting between the other books in the trilogy?

Of course, I could be babbling with non-specifics. Am I babbling? I'm babbling.

;-)
« Last Edit: July 06, 2008, 04:05 PM by Duskydawn »

Offline Whizbee

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2008, 09:38 PM »
I have a similar question/challenge... My book-under-contract has the introduction to the MC's story and now I'm going to write a proposal outlining the sequel. I know how the MC's story begins and how it ends, but then there's a breath in-between. I know there will be character development, but there has to be enough challenge/tension/action/etc. in the *middle* to make it a book on its own.

I believe that the second book in a series is often the weakest, a bridge between two strong pillars. How do you make this second story (part two of three) be an end onto itself and just as strong as a stand-alone...while simultaneously & seamlessly fitting between the other books in the trilogy?

Of course, I could be babbling with non-specifics. Am I babbling? I'm babbling.

;-)

Great questions. I'd like to hear about this myself. There's a thread about "second books" in this forum area, but I don't think anyone's talked specifically about the issues you bring up.
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Offline ecb

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2008, 03:01 PM »
I think in part the answer is that strong second books need to have plots that are all their own--a whole complete story arc/adventure to be enjoyed for its own merits, not just "what happens between the beginning and the end."

The best one I can think of right now is Kate Constable's THE WATERLESS SEA, book 2 of her "Chanters of Tremaris" trilogy.  THE SUBTLE KNIFE may be a good example, too, as is the third Harry Potter book.  You have threads of the ongoing character development, and there are larger issues still at stake for the world, but the focus of the action is on The New Adventure.
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Offline Jen

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2008, 03:52 PM »
I actually think the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan does character development across multiple adventures really well, but as I was reading them, I never thought "oh, this is where the character development is happening."  Like ECB said, the focus is on the action, and the development happens along the way.

Offline Duskydawn

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2008, 06:06 PM »
Yeah, I thought of the Rick Riordan series, too. Percy's growth is natural and each book is an adventure onto itself.

Offline TexasGirl

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2008, 07:24 PM »
Tally's growth in Scott Westerfield's "Uglies" series is also a thing to behold. He can turn her from good guy to bad guy to good and make us buy it totally. The man is phenomenal.

I do crazy things, like reading sequels and trilogies and actually mapping character arcs. I do it for individual books too. I learn a lot that way, probably more than the author intended! I find many series are "flat" in growth, but that seems par for them, they are intended to be serial, not arcing, especially in MG where they are adventure after adventure or comic situation after comic situation.

I plan way way ahead, taping pieces of paper together on the floor and mapping out all the arcs of all the characters over one book and over multiple. The series I've been working on has four critical characters and I've got them overlapping all over the place, which will hopefully help me align the overarching plot with their growth and keep things well paced. I've planned for three MGs and a YA finale as the kids will age from ten to thirteen over the course of the books, and all begin to lose their magic as they go from tween to teen, sparking the final showdown in whether or not we can truly retain our belief in the extraordinary as we grow. To make them shift from not believing, to believing, to not believing, and going separate directions is something to orchestrate, and I fear making mistakes in early books I can't "undo" if I don't plan carefully.

Westerfield's books have been very helpful in this way. I didn't find Harry Potter as useful in that regard, as the characterization feels muddy to me in the middle books. Another awesome pair of books on pure character development has been Sonya Sones (What My Mother Doesn't Know and What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know). She did what I am doing, which is to switch primary characters, letting the previous MC become secondary in the subsequent book, so the new arc can shine even as the old favorites still grow and change in the background.

Character growth is one of my absolute favorite things about writing in the MG and YA arena. Their maturation happens organically, always fresh and exciting as they become the adults they are meant to be, slackers or heroes, sirens or wallflowers, happy or discontent.
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Offline Duskydawn

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2008, 06:55 PM »
 :wow  Texasgirl, you are HARD CORE!

...Now I'm doubly-daunted to try to write Book Two... *eep*  :eeyore

Offline Christine Norris

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2008, 07:50 PM »
I think if you're doing a series where the characters age (as opposed to some where they stay the same age the entire length of the series) then the opportunity for growth is there and easier to deal with, because getting older poses a host of new challenges with every birthday candle, especially during the teenage years.

So you not only have the growth that comes from the challenges of the plot, but the normal growth that comes with becoming a teenager. Emotional and physical maturity are just parts of the growth you can get from a character. Planning it ahead of time - I don't do it. My characters seem to change as I write them, probably because I get to know them better the longer I spend with them, so I write them differently.
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Offline TexasGirl

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2008, 09:36 PM »
:wow  Texasgirl, you are HARD CORE!


Ha, you have no idea!!!!

The funny thing about all my planning? I get to the 3/4 point of my story, realize that it's going an entirely different direction than I thought, fold up all my carefully planned arcs, and start ALL OVER AGAIN with new character maps on the floor. (I love my 11x17 paper.)

I need to go to Outliners Anonyous.
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Offline robin@robinbridges.com

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2008, 02:30 AM »
I do crazy things, like reading sequels and trilogies and actually mapping character arcs. I do it for individual books too. I learn a lot that way, probably more than the author intended! I find many series are "flat" in growth, but that seems par for them, they are intended to be serial, not arcing, especially in MG where they are adventure after adventure or comic situation after comic situation.

I like to pick favorite books apart too, to see how they work.  Sometimes it seems like I'm taking a cold, scientific approach to writing, but I learn a lot about the process that way.
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Offline TexasGirl

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2008, 06:35 AM »
I understand what you mean. I find if I plan "cold" I can write "hot." If I've outlined a story well enough, I can knock out 40,000 words very fast (in about a month if my life is otherwise quiet) for a very hot first draft with no consistency problems and in a good solid voice that never falters.

When I write in bits and pieces and set it down in between, I'm just awful. I mean awful. The MC sounds like a skater chick for two chapters, then a diva for four, suddenly develops some weird expression she uses too often then drops completely, and then ages three years for the last pages. The editing feels insurmountable if I even finish, as once I read through and see all the problems, I want to quit.

So, I plan cold and write hot. It's my quirk. All my finished novels were completed within three months of starting. If I stop, even for a few weeks, it's all over. I have 6 abandoned manuscripts and 2 abandoned screenplays. The only way I'll pick them up again is if I delete everything I've done and start again fresh.

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Offline Whizbee

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Re: Character Development in Sequels
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2008, 03:47 PM »
Sometimes I think I find the growth my character needs to make after I write a more plotty first draft. Then I can go in and make the second draft richer by deepening the character's struggle.
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