What are the things that need to change and what is the minimum amount of change necessary for character development to be satisfying? The person interviewed says that there are things that need to change in a character, but he doesn't really expand on that and seems to be implying that the personality of the character must change, but I am wondering what's the minimum amount of change you need to see in a character for the development to be satisfying for the reader, because doing a 180 on a character is very difficult to do.

3 Answers 3



No character change is required for a story to be satisfying. A story can be quite satisfying as a character portrait or study, without any change in the character depicted. As an example, consider the movie version of The Bridge on the River Qwai. The character of Lt. Colonel Nicholson. Much of the movie is a character study of Nicholson, his rigid, unbending response to the situation of his men as prisoners of war, and his concept of honor. But no significant change in Nicholson's character is shown, except possibly for the moment of realization marked by the line "What have I done?" at the climax. But since the character Nicholson dies almost immediately after saying this line, we cannot really know what, if any, change in his character there has been. In spite of this lack of character change, the film was highly popular and successful, and remains much acclaimed by critics (see the Wikipedia article linked above).

Similarly, in the "man against nature" type of story, there is often little if any character change. The character of a human protagonist is sometimes barely sketched in such stories, in other cases drawn in some depth, but there is rarely much character change. A well-known example is Jack London's story "To build a Fire". There is no significant change of character in this short story, but many have found it satisfying.

Yet another example is Jack London's episodic novel The Star Rover There is no significant change in the character of the narrator and protagonist Darrell Standing, whose past lives form the bulk of the novel.

An interesting example is the novel The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. Thew protagonist Genly Ai, gains understanding of the culture of Gethen (Winter) during the course of the novel, and particularly during the journey across the Ice. he also comes to love his companion Estraven. But I would say that there is no essential change in his character.

In thriller novels and stories, there is often little development, or even depiction of character, Yet many find such works satisfying. An interesting variant on this is the "Parker" series by Donald Westlake, written under the name Richard Stark. In these the character of the amoral loner and anti-hero Parker is a significant element, but there is no significant change in that character across the 24 novels of the series.

When character changer is an important element of a work, it must be large enough to be noticed by the audience, and to seem significant. But it can be anything from a relatively minor change to a total upsetting of a character.


Without critiquing the video you shared, I suggest you check out this excellent primer on character arcs instead. It will tell you how characters change, etc.

In it, you'll notice there is one particular arc that does, in fact, not change: the flat arc. It changes everybody else (or at least a few of them) instead. This means that there will still be character change, just not in a character of this arc.

However, stories are just fine if no character changes at all. There are a bunch of characters that don't. For instance, James Bond (mostly), Indiana Jones, and Jack Reacher. Instead, these characters and their stories are usually interesting because of action, larger-than-life characters, the story stakes, etc.

It can be argued that just as you don't want your favorite champagne to change you may not want your favorite character to change (this one by Lee Child, the author of the Jack Reacher books, by way of James Scott Bell, if I remember correctly—regardless, sometimes change is not all good...)

Worth mentioning is that there is a difference between a flat arc character and a non-arcing character.

The flat arc character causes change in other characters while the non-arcing character does not. The non-arching character also does not have an initial illustrating problem that will show that they have some growing or learning to do. Other arcs will have this moment in the character or the character's world.

Most literature I've come across equates non-arcing characters with flat arc characters, but Jordan McCollum's "Character Arcs Founding, forming and finishing your character’s internal journey" defines the difference at some length.


A character has to be challenged by at least one major event that shows the full extent of their personality and what they are capable of.People are more interesting if they do things we wouldn't expect them to do.How they react to an event can be an event in itself

  • I think OP is talking about characters from a dynamic/static character standpoint. For example, Indiana Jones is a static character. At no point does anything about him change: Fedors are cool, Whips are awesome, Guns beat Sword, Nazis are the worst. Snakes are worse than Nazi. Stealing historical and cultural artifacts from the locals is cool if and only if you give it to a Museum. That doesn't mean he doesn't see adversity. It's just his adversity ever changes him.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 19:09
  • Compare with Luke Skywalker, who goes from "I can't fight the Empire, I have chores" to "I want to be a Jedi weee!" to "This Jedi shit is hard, I want to save my friends NOOOOW!" to "My father is evil, I can't deal" to "Jabba has my friend, I can deal" to "My father can be saved, screw the old Jedi farts and my friends who don't want me to try" to "I am a Jedi, Like my Father Before Me!"
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 19:13

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