At the Love is Murder convention, the topic of static characters vs characters who grow came up in several different panels. And a statement was made in one of the panels: "people essentially don't change so why should characters change?" I feel that the statement is inherently flawed, and the comment actually prompted me to want to write this post about the topic.
There are people who find comfort in characters that don't change, authors that continue to write the same kind of story, etc. The reader knows what to expect and knows what they're going to get. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, it seems to be making a tremendous amount of money for some authors.
But if we're being truthful about people, they do change. Not always in dramatic ways and rarely overnight, but they do change. When people marry, they change. When they have children, they change. When you move out of your parents' home you change - or if, God forbid, you experience a foreclosure. Anyone who has had their home broken into experiences a change. When a soldier comes back from war or a surgeon loses his first patient, change results.
Heck, psychology even recognizes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because life affects humans; it alters them.
So, personally, I think it's unrealistic to have a character in a book experience extreme situations - after all, crime fiction is full of extreme situations - and not be changed by those situations. I feel a much greater fulfillment from a book or a series that illustrates the characters' change and growth.
When I consider the books I most highly recommend to others, they are all books that examine how life affects the characters populating the stories
- THE LOCK ARTIST (Steve Hamilton)
- A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS (R.J. Ellory)
- THE AMATEURS (Marcus Sakey)
- L.A. REQUIEM (Robert Crais)
- THE CRIME WRITER (Gregg Hurwitz)
- TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Harper Lee)
- A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY (John Irving)
- LORDS OF DISCIPLINE (Pat Conroy)
- THE CRUELEST MONTH (Louise Penny)
- SHUTTER ISLAND (Dennis Lehane)
- KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED (Craig Johnson)
- MIND SCRAMBLER (Chris Grabenstein)
- DEAD CONNECTION (Alafair Burke)
- CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER (Tom Franklin)
- ROOM (Emma Donoghue)
- SORROW'S ANTHEM (Michael Koryta)
But I'm just one reader, and I know not everyone feels the same. So I'd love it if you'd share your own feelings on characters that change/grow vs characters that don't. And Julie P, this is my list for you...finally. It may be different next week, though.