Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aidan's Pensieve: Change I

I like to think that I like change. I've worked as a director in a company, and the one thing trait shared by every company I've worked for is frequent reorganization. This results in significant changes, particularly for a smallish (250 people) company. Some of the people who have reported to me respond poorly to change and need to have preparation and support through the change. I've enjoyed change because of the opportunities that opened up when change occurred.

This is how I've usually thought of change, yet I struggled with representing this in characters. Showing how some characters flow and change easily while others struggle. Particularly, in short stories this evocation can be difficult to accomplish in a small space.

After returning from Sweden mid-February, I caught the flu. It was so bad the following Monday that outside of a technical call with one of my Swedish colleagues (I must have been incoherent on the call), I slept the entire day. On Tuesday, my opinion was that I was nearly healthy. Mostly, because in contrast to Monday I was feeling significantly better.

The flu made me think about change and contrast. Using someone who might not change to show the way in which someone does change. This isn't rocket science, but it is interesting to me when you live through things that make you think differently.

What are ways that you show change in your characters?


  1. Sometimes by showing them reacting a repeat situation from the past in a different manner. Sometimes shifting their attitudes and manner of speaking towards different characters. I haven't thought about it too conciously though. Hmm

  2. Repeat situations are a nice complement to the change/contrast; except applying it to the same character at different points in their arc. Interesting way to look at it.

  3. I guess there's a lot of different ways, but a particular one can be to make sure that time passes. For change to happen, it is most often -- or more believably -- associated with a lapse of time.

    So, if a story is 'stuck in the moment', there may be an epiphany, but it's a harder sell than having a realisation occur over jumps of time -- weeks, months, years.

    These jumps don't need to be described in detail. It is enough to know they have occurred. St.

  4. @Stephen, I don't think I ever thought about the time aspects and how change takes time. Many of my short stories are similar to "24" with all of the action occurring continuously across a couple hours or a day. I will have to consider that aspect as well.

    There was a post on the Literary Lab taking about epiphanies vs. actions which meshes perfectly with what your saying. I.e. epiphanies are a harder sell and they stress the need to move it to actions as well.

  5. I would think of change in the context of significant events. It's easy to be complacent and resistant to change. It takes something that challenges us and forces us to reconsider our personal assumptions (about ourselves and about the world) before we'll open ourselves to change. So, to me, in order for change to happen, you need to see something significant to the character in question that challenges them directly. You then illustrate that change in the same way that you illustrate that one character is different from another: through dialog, character actions (how they react to situations), mannerisms, character thoughts, and also, potentially, oblique references to the moment that precipitated the change.