I rarely read reviews, especially on GoodReads, where it seems the reviewers can be egregiously harsh, but I read one this morning. I wish I hadn’t, because like most authors, I try never to respond.
It’s one thing if the reviewer understands your character and your plot and simply doesn’t like it, and another thing entirely when they don’t “get” the character and don’t even read the whole book.
I’ve seen reviews, and not just of my work, that smack of readers utterly oblivious to character development. Jane Doe must behave this way on page 300 because she behaved that way 250 pages (and in some cases, several years in the tale) ago.
Personally, I prefer books in which the character changes at least a little over the course of the story. She realizes she’s too trusting, he decides to go back to college, she decides to move away from a toxic family situation, he learns to see homeless people as individuals and not a clot in the arteries of his home town, and so on. A character that learns something as basic as “beauty is only skin deep” gets higher marks from me than one that never stops judging people on appearance alone.
I like it when characters who need to grow and change, do. They may not be anywhere near perfect by the end of the book, but that’s okay, as long as they are heading that way. It’s even okay if they are heading in the opposite direction. Some characters become flawed as the story progresses, and that can be interesting, too.
In my opinion, many books, movies and television shows fail to show any character development. Worse, too many that do try to show character development have all the subtlety of an atom bomb. The moment X happens, the character becomes Y. Please.
How many people do you know who changed in any meaningful way all at once? I don’t mean promising to tell everyone they love how important they are because, you know, their best friend just died in a tragic accident and life really is uncertain….
A resolution like that is not at all unusual, but it rarely endures. Life demands too much attention, and sooner or later, most of us turn back to it despite our best intentions.
Most people don’t change because X happens. They change because A through W happen and bring changes to their character first. The neat thing about a book is that you can weave A through W into the storyline, leading up to X. The bad thing is, some readers don’t notice until you get to X, or don’t notice at all.
I am quite proud of Memory’s Child. I like the story, I like the way Shelana starts out a smart-assed, naïve almost-woman who simply reacts to the world. She’s a character in dire need of character development, and slowly but surely, she grows as the story – and time – goes on.
So I’ll just bite my tongue – er, keyboard – and go on about my business, which is writing.