Main Character Growth

Whether or not a Main Character eventually Changes his nature or remains Steadfast, he will still grow over the course of the story, as he develops new skills and understanding. This growth has a direction.

Either he will grow into something (Start) or grow out of something (Stop).

A Change Main Character grows either by adding a characteristic he lacks (Start) or by dropping a characteristic he already has (Stop). Either way, his make up is changed in nature. As an example we can look to Ebeneezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Does Scrooge need to Change because he is miserly or because he lacks generosity? Scrooge’s Problems do not stem from his active greed, but from his passive lack of compassion. It is not that he is on the attack, but that he does not actively seek to help others. This reflects a need to Start, rather than Stop. This difference is important in order to place the focus of conflict so that it supports the overall argument of the story.

In contrast, Steadfast Main Characters will not add nor delete a characteristic, but will grow either by holding on against something bad, waiting for it to Stop, or by holding out until something good can Start.

For a Steadfast Character, growth is not a matter of Change, but a matter of degree. Change is still of concern to him but in his environment, not in himself. Conversely, a Change Character actually alters his being, under the influence of situational considerations. This helps clarify why it is often falsely thought that a Main Character MUST Change, and also why Steadfast characters are thought not to grow.

To properly develop growth in a Main Character one must determine whether he is Change or Steadfast and also at the direction of the growth.

A good way to get a feel for this dynamic in Change Characters is to picture the Stop character as having a chip on his shoulder and the Start character as having a hole in his heart. If the actions or decisions taken by the character are what make the problem worse, then he needs to Stop. If the problem worsens because the character fails to take certain obvious actions or decisions, then he needs to Start.

Of course, to the character, neither of these perspectives on the problem is obvious, as he must grow and learn to see it. The audience can empathize with the character’s failure to see himself as the source of the problem even while recognizing that he should or should not change because the audience is shown another view the character does not get: the objective view. It is here that Start and Stop register with the audience as being obvious.

Essentially, if you want to tell a story about someone who learns he has actually been making the problem worse, choose Stop. If you want to tell a story about someone who has allowed a problem to become worse, choose Start.

A Steadfast Main Character’s Resolve needs to grow regardless of Start or Stop. If he is a Start Character, he will be tempted by indications that the desired outcome is not going to happen or is unattainable. If he is a Stop Character, he will find himself pressured to give in.

Remember that Direction of growth in a Steadfast Character is largely seen in his environment. His personal growth is seen as a matter of degree.

From the Dramatica Theory Book