How Characters Change in Stories (And How to Write Believable Change)


A story without character development is like a paper airplane without wings – it just won’t go anywhere. Whether it’s your protagonist, antagonist, or a minor character, the characters in your story are what drive the plot forward and make it interesting for your readers. Being able to write believable character change is a key skill for any writer, and one that can be honed with practice and patience. In this article, we’ll be exploring how to craft believable character change in stories and why it’s so important.

The Importance of Character Change

When a character changes over the course of a story, it gives your readers something to root for. It shows that your protagonist is growing, learning, and overcoming obstacles. It also reveals the character’s inner journey, which can be just as important as the external plot. Character change can also be used to show how a character’s relationships with other characters have evolved, or how they’ve come to terms with a difficult situation. Ultimately, character change is crucial for making your story believable and relatable.

Types of Character Change

There are three main types of character change: physical, emotional, and mental. Physical change is when a character’s physical appearance or physical capabilities change. Emotional change is when a character’s attitude or outlook on life shifts. Mental change is when a character’s beliefs, values, or knowledge changes. All three types of change can be used in tandem to create a believable character arc.

Tips for Writing Believable Character Change

Writing believable character change doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Show, Don’t Tell:

Rather than simply stating that a character has changed, it’s best to show the change through their actions. Showing your character’s evolution will make it more believable and interesting for your readers.

2. Start Small:

It’s best to start with small changes and build up to bigger ones. This will help your readers connect with the character and invest in their journey.

3. Make It Develop Over Time:

Character change should never be instantaneous. It should occur gradually over the course of the story, and each small change should build on the last.

4. Don’t Force It:

Your character’s change should feel natural and organic. If it feels forced or unnatural, it won’t be believable to your readers.

5. Give Them a Reason to Change:

Characters don’t change just because. There should be a concrete reason for why they’re changing. It could be an external event that forces them to re-evaluate their beliefs, or an internal conflict that leads them to make a difficult decision.

6. Use Contrast:

Contrasting your character’s beliefs and values at the beginning and end of your story is a great way to illustrate their change. It will also help your readers understand why your character has changed.

7. Avoid Excessive Change:

It’s important to remember that your character should still be recognizable at the end of your story. Too much change can make them unrecognizable, and it can be difficult for your readers to relate to them.

8. Allow Room for Growth:

Your character should never be perfect by the end of your story. They should still have room to grow and evolve in future stories.

9. Show Internal Struggle:

Your character should struggle with their decision to change. Showing this internal struggle will make the change more believable and relatable to your readers.

10. Use Subtext:

Subtext can be a great tool for illustrating character change. Subtle hints and clues throughout your story can help your readers understand the character’s evolution without you having to spell it out for them.


Writing believable character change is an important skill for any writer. It’s important to remember that character change should be organic, gradual, and driven by external and internal forces. Showing your character’s change through their actions, rather than simply telling your readers, is key for crafting believable character change. With practice and patience, you can hone your skills and create believable characters that your readers will root for. It is the essential element to creating an engaging story – the development of characters that readers can relate to and follow on their journey. With an author’s help, characters must grow, change, and evolve over the course of their story arc. To lend authenticity to these changes, authors must craft their characters’ growth in a believable and convincing way.

First, authors must differentiate between growth and change. Whereas character growth is a gradual development over the course of events in a story, change is a distinct shift in behavior or outlook in response to certain circumstances. Ideally, a character’s development should be composed of both growth and change.

A character might have personality traits that gradually reveal themselves and build upon one another as a story progresses. However, a character may also be deeply affected by pivotal story events, causing a dramatic shift in their attitude or worldview. To create a realistic characterization, these changes should match a character’s backstory and motivations.

Plot points should challenge characters’ preconceived notions and force them to confront their biases. This can lead to both inward and outward change. When a character’s old life and beliefs are put in a precarious position, readers can observe how the character is adapting to a new reality.

In addition to inner change, characters must form relationships or break unhealthy ones. This social development can also alter a character’s perspective and shape their growth.

Above all, authors should strive to create believable characters by including personal stakes within their stories. Characters should be thrown into situations they had never considered and then be forced to choose between competing interests. It is the ultimate conflict between a character’s responsibilities and deeply held desires that propels character growth and development.

In conclusion, the strength of any narrative relies on the development of its characters. By letting characters grow, authors can create realistic changes in their stories while instilling personal stakes that readers can empathize with. With the right combination of inner and outer development, any protagonist can become a rounded, dynamic, and believable character.

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