It takes a character more than one book to mature.

 

We had a snapshot of Shot Glass Reynolds in this novel, and Shot Glass continues to mature, novel after novel.
We had a snapshot of Shot Glass Reynolds in this novel, and Shot Glass continues to mature, novel after novel.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE a character in a novel to mature?

What if I asked the question this way: How long does it take a person to mature?

The law might say that a person enters adulthood at age 18 or 21.  But we all know that it takes a lot longer than that for a person to reach full maturity.

When you get right down to it, any moment in a person’s life is nothing more than a snapshot, a glimpse of where he stands now.

Perhaps that glimpse is an indication of what he will be like ten years from now, perhaps not.

Why are characters any different?

They aren’t.

So when an author draws a character she is providing an insight into that person’s situation at the moment we find him in the book.

Maybe he is on the verge of a great transformation.

He should be because every novel is about human transformation on one level or another.

Maybe the character is in the slough of despond and can’t find his way out.

Maybe he is at the top of his game.

That would be pretty boring.

If he’s at the top of his game, we can’t sympathize with him because most of us don’t know how that feels.

Give me a character who is in bad need of saving, and I will read on.

Give me one who is flawless and full-blown and I’ll stop reading.

Since in real life we never know what the morrow brings, we read to find out what the morrow brought for someone else.

If the character’s plight partakes in the common human drama, he can teach us by example how, we, too, might find our way through the maze.  If he can see the finish line from way back in the pack, to hell with him.

The notion of a character being a work in progress is one of the most fascinating components of fiction.  An author must draw a character half-formed, but give readers enough information about him that they want to root for him and want to see how he will extricate from his troubles.

How long does it take a character to mature?

It takes longer than one book, longer than one lifetime.

All we can do as authors is hope we get the snapshot of him in focus

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