Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.

This week features Shannon looking into character arcs and if characters need to change. 

This is an updated version of a column that Shannon Muir did for a sister site.

Something I was taught early on in writing was the “character arc” and the character’s need for growth and change. Because I prefer to focus on character, focusing on a character arc like this often happens in my writing. Then I got to thinking about series, such as a mystery series, that showcases a main character whose appeal with the readership lies in the fact that the audience knows and loves the character and the personality as a constant is part of the appeal.

At first glance, this seems to defy everything I was taught.

The reality is that even these type of series, especially if they are long-running, ultimately seem contain some form of character change. It’s just that the character evolution moves at a slower, drawn-out pace. If nothing else, the adventures of book after book and the knowledge learned from those experiences then informs how the character reacts to later books.

There are a few characters that are archetypes. In these cases, the author’s goal is to show how a character reacts to situations, and not necessarily on character development. Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Sam Spade and Hercule Poirot are some examples.

So, from my perspective, it’s really not a matter of “does a character need to change” but, rather, at what speed that change occurs.

Until next time!