Steadfast vs. Changing Characters

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Life is change, goes the mantra which the Buddhists use. Many of our characters in our stories experience changes. The pull of transformation is strong, a way to keep readers engaged. As Tom Waits said in his great song, we all want to know How’s It Gonna End? Choosing a steadfast character offers a different kind of ride for the reader. This person is buffeted by events that try to pull him away from his core beliefs.

Your Hollywood antiheroes are classic steadfast people: Cary Grant in His Girl Friday, or Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past. You have a pretty good idea how it’s going to end for a steadfast character: The way they began their life. You take on an extra challenge in putting a steadfast character at the heart of your story. Their code of conduct either has to be absolute, or one worth defending. Empathy provides a smoother path for the latter code; the hero has to be fighting the good fight we can rally around.

A character of evil can be steadfast, too, but you can tax the patience of some readers to stay close to such a character for hundreds of pages. Steadfast characters have a life of their own they must live, and nothing that crosses their path changes their outlook. They can be harder to embrace or root for, though. A changing character is more common, but if your storytelling skills are up to the challenges, steadfast gives you a way to tell your tale against the grain.

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