If your character changes throughout a story, it can be difficult to track their development. This is especially true in longer works, or if multiple characters undergo complex changes.
Solving this issue is deceptively simple. All you need to do is make a list of the changes each character has and link them to events in the story. At a minimum, jot down these five things about a character:
- Character’s state at the beginning (the lie they believe)
- Character’s state at the end (the truth they discover)
- Event(s) that show the beginning state (living the lie)
- Event(s) that drive the change (discovery of the truth)
- Event(s) that show the ending state (acceptance of the truth)
By linking the changes to specific events (scenes, actions, even just a bit of dialogue), you will show the why and how of the change to the reader, and you will be able to identify any incomplete or unexplored character arcs.
Spreadsheets can be helpful for laying out the information:
In many cases, you will have a single character go through multiple arcs. For example, if this was a longer piece of writing, Benjamin could also struggle with his relationship with his mother, which ultimately drove his clingy nature. Just add a new row on the spreadsheet (or another set of bullet points).
For a novel, imagine if this story was told via switching the point of view between the two characters, and each could have a dozen or more changes that they go through in this life-altering encounter. Keeping track of it all would be a hassle, but now you know how!
For more on character arcs, check out K.M. Weiland’s excellent series on the subject.