My current theory is that characters don't actually change. The way they are at the end of the story--the endpoint of the character arc to which we're moving--is actually no more and no less than how the character really is, already. His true self, if you will, is already there, but it is hidden or repressed somehow. The dramatic action, the primary conflict of the story, is created because the protagonist is unable to express that true self. Or, it can only be resolved once the protagonist expresses that true self. (Scott G.F. Bailey)If you'd like to talk about character change, step over to the Lab and leave a comment. For here I'd like to discuss how we as writers are in our journey. Do we change as writers? Or do we simple discover things about ourselves? Does our writing change?
I'm preparing to rewrite a novel of mine in the next few months, and as I look at previous drafts that I've written over the past 15 years I'm very surprised to see that the writing hasn't change all that much. It's still my writing. It's just that certain things were "hidden or repressed somehow," just as Scott says above. I didn't know how to command my language as well, how to structure as well, how to control my descriptions, how to make certain character mannerisms work for the story, etc. I didn't even know what was missing! But, the basic building blocks were there. It makes me wonder how and what I'll discover in the next 15 years. It's an exciting journey, and I prefer to think that whatever I publish in my life now will not bring me shame in the future. It will still be my writing, my words, my talent. I will have just discovered new things to show in my writing later - like a beautiful package where I keep peeling back the layers of tissue paper. It won't be the gift inside but the experience of opening the package that will make all the difference. Practice and persistence are what get us to peel the layers. So keep at it.