Plotting character change

I’ve started using index cards again. I’ve used them in the past to set out scenes, but found it lacking as a writing technique.

The difference this time is I’ve been using them in combination with a technique that was described to me by Charles Harris at his Exciting Treatments workshop, that allows you to quickly develop the “inner change” of your character.

For example your character might start out “naive” and end up “insightful”. Between those two states of being the character might progress from “naive” to “curious” to “confused” to “disappointed” to “determined” to “inspired” before becoming “insightful”.

The technique involves describing the various ways you show character through the obstacles they encounter, and actions they take. Ask yourself, what stands in their way, and what action would this kind of person take now? It’s a very effective way of building plot and character simultaneously.

It can be done on a bit of paper, but I’ve started doing it with cards. Using cards allows things to be changed easily, without having to confuse yourself with the layers of scribble that inevitable build up when scrawling on a bit of paper.

The other thing that I have found helpfully is to change the sequence of the cards. When it was shown to me, the “inner story step” was presented as a column on the left, with the characters action described in a column on the right.

I start with three columns. Left to right they read, outer obstacle, inner change, action. This layout allows me to construct sentences that describe the characters development. For example. Adam is outraged at Christine’s drug use.feels self-righteous, so arrests Christine.

Adam’s outer obstacle is Christine’s drug use. His inner story step is self-righteousness. The action he takes is to arrest his sister.

As with most writing techniques that work for me, it’s simple.

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