Making Characters Grow Emotionally

image-698390_640Last week I looked at a few novels to discover how the protagonists grew emotionally.

Now I’m trying to think of the ways my main characters grow and change, and how the events of the novel change them emotionally.

Iskra, my protagonist starts out as a kind-hearted person who wants to do the right thing. She’s also a bit timid, fearful of criticism, but has an uncomfortable habit of asking questions. She’s too smart to blindly accept what’s she’s been taught, when the facts are telling her something isn’t right. But her horror of not being accepted or criticized keeps her silent.

Then a horrifying event happens, which is partly Iskra’s fault. She sets herself to discover the truth. Her timidity causes her to go about this in a roundabout way, but in the end she learns she can’t live a double life. The only way to happiness and peace is to choose.

This goes against all she’s been brought up to believe, along with the idea that safety is the highest good. Anything dangerous is evil. Eventually she learns that there are worse things than taking a risk.

Tarkio is a much braver soul, as he faces it daily along the trade routes he follows from town to town. In the beginning, he believes (with some justification) that his smarts will get him out of every tough spot.

He learns, to his shame, that he just because he’s smart it doesn’t mean he can’t make a mistake. The mistake he made sets up many of the tragic events that follow. His efforts to fix things only make them worse. He has to accept that he’s like the rest of us, muddling along as best we can. Being the person he is, he claims responsibility for his folly and vows to make things right.

Kaberco is the bravest of them all. As Ephor in charge of the village’s safety, he confronts bandits, wild animals and the occasional drunk with ease. He’s driven by the fear of failure, of being seen as incompetent. The antagonist in the story is mostly the government/king. Kaberco, as his agent, starts out relatively benign, but to Iskra’s dismay, he becomes the face of the oppressor and the keeper of the lies.

And then there’s Mazat. I originally conceived him to be a villain, but after a beta reader said he was a stereotype and too evil to be believed, I decided to change him up. He’ll keep some of his crude and gruff ways.  But he and Iskra develop an uneasy alliance.

It’s Mazat’s son Udbash who takes on the villain role, with Mazat selfishly refusing to help Iskra out of her dilemma. He’s almost like the opposite of Iskra, who learns to take the risk to defy the system, where Mazat prefers to keep his opposition to it under wraps. Udbash, who knows all of Mazat’s secrets, can betray his father. Mazat knows it, and allows Udbash to have his own way.

And I’m just getting started with these people…

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