I write this as both a reader and a writer. We adapt, we evolve, we change. That is the nature of the beast.
Why is it that the reader has such a hard time accepting the change, the evolution of a character when it is the inevitable fact of life that everything changes? Our moods, the weather, and for me a good character changes, too. I guess we don’t like be out of our comfort zone. We want the familiar character we have grown to love.
I was scanning some reviews at Amazon for some authors I like to read and it made me wonder. I saw many one-star reviews simply because the character was evolving, changing or doing something that was unexpected. Should an author be penalized for doing that? I don’t think so, in the end as a writer we have to go where that story takes us. We have to listen to what the character is telling us.
There is nothing more boring to me than a character that never changes. Book after book I’m read the same thing, but at some point I have to stop reading. As a reader I want to be shocked, I want to sit there and wonder why the character did that. As a writer I aspire to rock your world with a deep and somewhat unpredictable character.
As much as I love Stephanie Plum I haven’t read a book all the way through since Ranger was shot. I think Evanovich is giving the majority of the readers what they want. The few readers like me who drop out won’t be missed. I love Steph, Morelli and Ranger, but until something life shattering happens, I won’t be reading. I have seen no forward movement in the characters and I lost interest, to me they have become predictable.
I recently started reading the John Rain character by Barry Eisler. I started in the middle of the series with Requiem for an Assassin. Rain is a quintessential anti-hero, assassin for hire. I’d like to say Rain is an anti-hero with a heart but I’m not sure if that is an accurate statement. From what I’ve read, Rain is evolving, longing for, or at least, wondering what a ‘normal’ life would be like. That sounds good to me because it leaves the door wide open for so many plots and I expect a character to grow. Some of the readers didn’t like this step in his evolution, and I guess that is to be expected. Rain is now a father and that changes a person whether we can admit it or not. If you think you can find 'the love' for an assassin give a John Rain novel, a try.
Last but not least, my favorite character Joe Pike, written by Robert Crais. Pike has ventured off from Elvis Cole into his own series of books. Elvis is always there to lend Pike a hand when needed. Elvis and Joe are a good pairing, like John Rain and Dox.
Pike is changing and ‘thinking’ about evolving. In The Sentry, he actually lets his guard down and lets a woman in, it just turned out to be the wrong woman. I was so proud! Okay, I’m a huge Pike fan! I see growth and change and an inner dialogue that says can I be normal? I can see him as a husband and father. That I think, will be too much for most of his readers to handle. That’s okay because I write fan fiction stories, so I’m good. Pike will always be the hero who hides his pain behind dark glasses and the man of action who is willing to die for a cause. He is a killer with a conscience, John Rain, not so much. Pike will never show up to a party and talk your arm off. I like the fact he keeps me guessing, wondering what is going on behind those dark glasses.
Crais books have crisp, clean writing with just enough amazingly poetic descriptions to keep me interested. His writing is Spartan, you won’t be inundated with too much of a good thing and I love that.
My character Nick Dempsey, seems be to simultaneously evolving and devolving if that’s possible. I'm going where he is leading me, good or bad. He has made great strides to live a normal life but one horrific event will lead back down the dark path in the sequel to Nature of the Beast. You either face your demons or you spend a lifetime running from them.
I think our characters change over the years as we do. We become more cynical or less cynical. Our characters age as we do and they feel the grip of mortality, they think ‘what if.’
I can see why there is trepidation by some authors to evolve their characters…you will alienate some fans in the process, but in the end your character knows best.