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Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

One cannot truly change other people. They have to want to change and be willing to take the appropriate steps and endure the excruciating growing pains all by themselves. Nothing annoys me more than the trope that you can love people into being emotionally healthy. You can love them while they become emotionally healthy, but that isn't the same thing.

That said, when one character changes — as your protagonist should — it naturally has an impact on the characters around him. He does not exist in a vacuum. Those closest to him react to this change either positively or negatively. 

Let’s give Dick a nagging mother. When Dick’s point of change occurs and he finally stands up to her, she may not have a similar epiphany. She may continue to nag as he walks off. However, over time she will shut up or find another audience. People only do what works. When a method stops working, they have to find new ways to achieve their payoff.

The same is true if Dick is fighting off vampires. He will have to gain the right knowledge or the right weapon. This will inspire respect in some, resentment in others. Not everyone will be happy when your hero becomes heroic. Some might try to tear him down or trip him up. That’s where foes come in. Foes don’t have to be henchmen of the antagonist. They can be people your hero once thought of as friends, or at least benign acquaintances. Even good friends might be mildly inconvenienced or outright threatened by this change.

Change creates unease. Subtle shifts in the status quo make your characters uneasy. They have to learn to navigate new terrain. Relationships can fray under the pressure.

Do not spend chapters detouring into side stories or internal journeys of secondary characters. Keep to the main thread and show small changes through dialogue and description in their interactions with the protagonist or each other.

How do your characters behave toward and talk to the characters most changed at the beginning of the story? How do they react by the end?

It can be as simple as a character sneering at the hero in an early chapter and saluting him at the end. It could be an easy camaraderie between them at the beginning and a stiffness in the end.

When you have assembled your cast and put them through their initial paces, also called the first draft, take a step back and look at how the overall story problem has impacted the secondary characters' lives. If they all remain static, you haven’t utilized all the tools in your storytelling tool kit.

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