The Evolution of Character

When I was little, I was bound and determined to be a meteorologist.

I’d watch The Weather Channel on a daily basis.  I’d study cloud patterns to try and predict rain by looking up at the sky.  When a storm came up, I’d watch the radar with keen eyes, studying the wind direction.

And then I saw Jurassic Park.  My dreams of meteorology were thrown out the window and I soon dreamed of flying to far away lands, digging up dinosaur bones and hopefully one day genetically growing my own brontosaurus.

Of course, that dream changed when I saw Apollo 13.  I then vowed to become an astronaut to study the stars and visit planets and asteroids.  I read every biography, studied every space program.  I even started studying flight because I heard “Pitch, Roll and Yaw” was a popular read for astronauts (not sure how true that is, but as a kid I thought it best to study it anyways.)

By the time I got to college my mind had changed considerably on what I could do with my life.  I wanted to be a preacher.  I wanted to be a singer.  I wanted to be a chemist.  I wanted to be a teacher.  I didn’t look at writing as a serious career until I was in my mid-twenties.

Over the years (I’ve noticed), change has been my constant companion.  I’m not the same person I was ten or even five years ago.  I’ve grown, matured, and learned things along the way.  And five years from now, I’m sure I’ll change some more.

As I’ve been working on Book 2 and Book 3 of “The Ripple Affair” series, I can’t help but look back at how much my characters have changed.  These stories have been a work in progress for ten years and going, and though some characters have remained untouched, many characters have gone through drastic changes as the story has progressed and grown.

Take (for example) Emmerich.  (Slight spoilers ahead, if you’re looking…)

We first meet Emmerich in Book 1.  At first we can see he is a quiet individual-bookish, shy, and full of manners.  As we get to know him throughout the story, however, we see other traits pop up.  He holds grudges when he’s wronged.  He’s a passionate individual.  He loves deeply.  And as we get into Book 2, we’ll find that he has many more traits as well (and I’ll admit they’re pretty humorous.)

But when I first started writing Emmerich’s character, he was anything but the person he is in the story now.

Ten years ago, he had a small cameo.  He was “the queen’s adventurous and brave nephew”, called upon when someone needed a daring task to be done or something to be hunted.  He never had a scene with his cousin Edward and was a close friend of Marcus Peterson.

Five years ago, his story grew.  He was no longer limited to just being the brave hunter.  Connections to other characters began to form and a history began to appear.  He was an only child.  How would that effect his relationships with his family?  He soon had some scenes with Edward.  Were they friends?  Were they enemies?  Did they even see each other living so far away?

One year ago, his story began to take shape.  As other characters’ stories came forth and changed, Emmerich’s soon had to adapt.  Edward had a strained relationship with his family members, and that would include Emmerich.  But why did they not get along?  Were they too different, or was it something else? Emmerich’s father (who had not existed a year ago) was created and given the job of being an ambassador to Edeland.  Edward’s wife-to-be is from Edeland, so did Emmerich know her?  It turns out he did.

The character (and story) evolved from there.  Like time and experience had changed me when growing up, so had it changed Emmerich.  Time passed and experience happened.  The story grew and Emmerich had to adapt.  Though he could’ve stayed as the brave hunter, his role in the story would have been limited or non-existent and he wouldn’t have been able to grow.  Changed allowed him to adapt.  Experience and time made him into the character he is today.

I admit I don’t like change.  It takes me out of my comfort zone and I can’t predict what the outcome of that change will be.  But I also can’t prevent it sometimes, and perhaps that’s a good thing.  Without change, I’d still be a kid.  Without change, I would never have learned how much I enjoy studying dinosaurs and space.  Without change, I would’ve never taken the chance to write.  And without change, Emmerich would have just remained a name on a page with no contribution to the story.  Time passes and experience grows.  Just as I’m still changing as I get older, Emmerich will continue to evolve.  Experiences will happen.  Time will (hopefully) make him wiser.  Relationships will come and go.  But Emmerich will grow along with his story, just as I grow along with mine.