I have this main character who is very academically gifted but has a bunch of problems.

For example he is: Anti-social, paranoid, ignorant of the people around him, very violent, short tempered, and has a certain disdain to life in general, human or otherwise.

Now throughout the story he is shocked and surprised to see that things are not as they are.

For example when he joined the magic school the headmaster there, a man respect in the whole world, choose him to be his ward. He then thought that the position was insulting and the fact that he practiced less magic than his peers made him ostracized and a lesser wizard. This is absolute blindness on his part as the only reason he was chosen was because he has the potential to be a great wizard and the headmaster wanted to tempered his character and teach him magic under his guidance.

When he later discovers this he is shocked and thinks that he peers must be joking. The fact that he practiced more intense and higher magic was lost to him and he always thought he was a lesser wizard. Obviously he is really blind in many things. He is a teenager after all.

This is just an example.

Now to the story. Well. At a certain point he travels with a group of other students in search of their master. As the journey continues he is constantly put in unfamiliar territory of human interactions and finds himself to be wrong a lot.

So. Over the course of those long days of riding and camping and talking and fighting I had his character change a little. Notice a little.

The problem is I'm worried that I did not focus enough on the changes in the chapters. So. Do I need a lot of inner thoughts on that? Can the changes be more subtle where from chapter 1 to chapter 7 he starts calling the other students friends and becomes more aware of his actions?

This includes a romance subplot and overall more of coming of age story and becoming more mature, if only in actions, story.

I keep thinking of major events. There is a couple of them and they are given focus. But I also like to tone down this and have him overcome his flaws with time, and incorporate into the group and become less of an awful person without calling to much attention.

So. Instead of harsh or snarky remarks he starts to become nicer, instead of suggesting murder on the first opportunity he would listen to others plans...etc. All without calling out this changes.

I know this might be a little bit opinion based so if you want to consider it to be what is the prevailing thought or what are the most important rule about character changing, showing it big time or subtly, or something more concrete then is is basically the same goal.

Ultimately I have no problems about any changes. All writing is to accomplish a goal and anything that does not help that is extra weight I'm willing to dispose of.

  • "Character development" usually means gradual revealing of information regarding the character (who, on the inside, may not be changing at all). The process of character change throughout the story usually called "character growth." Is your question about the former, or latter?
    – Alexander
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 22:53
  • "Tampered his dispositon" - I think you mean "temper" there.
    – JRE
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 6:21
  • @Alexander, I mean overall changes in the character's action and/or thoughts. so. If they happen to be rude in chapter 1 they are nicer by chapter 5. Whether that is growth, change, or merely them becoming more socialize is up to the reader and context.
    – Seallussus
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 17:03
  • @JRE, Thanks. I edited it
    – Seallussus
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 17:04

3 Answers 3


The event must be major enough that:

  1. it warrants the character changing
  2. the reader notices it and they remember it

Changes can be abrupt or gradual, pick whichever you like, but do not use gradual development as an excuse for why a character's development is unapparent to the reader. What the reader doesn't notice doesn't happen.


Does your main character have a backstory or reason to be this violent, blind, rude, and ill-tempered? If so then part of the story should be about him coming to terms with this reason, moving on, and changing. The changes don’t have to be HUGE, just big enough so that the reader recognizes that the character has changed, and has become a better version of the person he was before. If there is no dramatic change in the character, then the reader will loose interest.

  • I think this implies that there is a "normal" character type or a "normal" score on the big five personality module which is obviously wrong. I don't think a person high on agreeableness is better than a one low in it. 2nd part. Right. I'm unsure of the reader noticing. Some of the bigger changes are called out while others just happen. Like think of how a character does stopped smoking in the first act and polled a cigarette in the middle of the 3rd act. Stuff like that. So. How does that fit? Will people think it is my fault for not focusing more or just pick it up?
    – Seallussus
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 20:45

The event needs to be major to the character and thus to the reader who is emotionally invested.

Why did the event have such an impact on the character? Is it clear how the event affected the character?

Sometimes one major event can completely change the course of a character's life. For example, having your sister's named picked out of a jar to compete (and probably die) in the hunger games.

You can also have characters react to in completely outsized ways to minor slights an anoyances. See any episode of Seinfeld.

In both examples, you have no trouble understanding the motivation and goal of the character. Whether it's saving your family or getting soup for lunch. In both cases, the external event is a big deal to the character.

  • Lets take the travel part as example. So. At first he is very formal with most of them and does not consider them friends. But overtime he start to become more social and uses more friendly language. This is in contrast to the romance subplot which is discussed in inner thoughts a lot more. So. I'm thinking about the balance. Like it does not seem good writing to me to call out when he jokes with a character while also I'm worried that the reader things it's all just random stuff or feels that I did not make the change reasonably well.
    – Seallussus
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 20:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.