October 24, 2017

Change and A Novel's Characters

Change. The only constant in our world is change. If you don't agree, check how your current technology compares to what's in the stores these days. It's hard to keep up, and we often balk at  change. Other times, we accept change as inevitable, or we embrace it with pure excitement and joy.

A few weeks ago, our family traveled to Rhode Island for our son's wedding. We embraced the addition of a new daughter to our family, but the changes to our routine? Not so much. We spent six days away from home. Even though it's fun to explore other places, we missed the familiar comforts of home.

Protagonists Must Face Change

A novel's protagonist has to face change, too. Sometimes they embrace it, but a good author creates  conflict and tension by placing characters in a change they do not welcome. If the characters do welcome the change, the story still needs conflict, so the change must turn out differently than anticipated.

Think about Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Frustrated by the actions of her school teacher, she sings about a far away world she wishes to visit. In her dreams, it's a wonderful place. When the tornado pulls her from her aunt and uncle's farm in Kansas and drops her in a very different world, she discovers there's no place like home. With conviction, she strives, and overcomes many fears, to find a way home.

While our trip to Rhode Island had a definite beginning and end, the characters in a story might face permanent changes. The author creates an environment different from the familiar. What should the characters miss? What should make them uncomfortable?

The Comforts of Home


Your Own Bed

I don't know about you but nothing relaxes me better than falling asleep in my own bed under my own roof.  I've stayed in places where the bed was hard or squeaky or too small or just not my bed. I've, also, stayed in nice hotels with plush beds, but I still sleep best in my bed.

Clothing

No matter how well you plan, you can't bring every piece of clothing you own. You have to anticipate what you'll need. How many times have you been somewhere and wished for a different pair of shoes or clothes suited to a different climate than you expected? Then, there are the items you meant to bring but forgot. Many years ago, I went on a short trip and forgot underwear! I had to run to the store and buy some.

Expenses

Staying somewhere else costs money. Are you in one place or moving around? Can you fix your own food or do you need to eat out? Did you forget something (like underwear) and end up spending money meant for other expenses on replacing that necessity? Was your luggage lost or damaged? Are you invited to events that require specific clothes or admission prices? The cost of travel can add up. If your character is going to be on this road of adventure for some time, they may need to budget or pick up an odd job or sell something in order to stay warm, dry, and fed.

People

Cell phones connect us to those we love, but if you're in a different time zone you might not be able to talk to them. If your story occurs before cell phones or telephones, that connection is not available. Not that long ago, people didn't place long distance phone calls except for in case of an emergency. Go back further in time, and mail might be the only way to connect. Characters must deal with the loss of those who make them feel loved and cared for, someone to whom they can confide their worries or plans. Someone they trust.

Landscape

This might not occur to you at first, but the view makes a difference. Let's face it, when you go to the beach, you probably prefer an ocean front room. If you go to the mountains, you want a great view. Not everywhere we go provides spectacular scenery. I'm accustomed to hills and tall green trees that turn to reds and orange in the fall. On most days, I can see the Blue Ridge Mountains. I like the view of the ocean, but I get tired of it after awhile. My feet break out from the combination of sand, salt water, and sweat. I want to see my backyard with the mountains in the distance.

Breakfast

Yes, breakfast. Most of us, if we eat breakfast, have a routine. Maybe you need your coffee first thing in the morning. Is it available when traveling? Is it the right brand? Do they have the right sweetener and creamer if you don't drink it black? I'm allergic to coffee, so I drink a protein powder mixed with rice milk not dairy (another allergy). Also, I finish breakfast with a cup of hot tea, but not just any tea. I drink Plantation Mint tea with a non-dairy French Vanilla creamer. When I can, I travel with all the ingredients except the hot water. Sometimes, I still can not get my tea due to the lack of a hot water source. And don't get me started on available non-dairy options.

Characters Discomforts

These are just a few examples of things that would upset my life if I faced them on a regular basis. Your characters have their own comforts and needs. What would they miss? What familiar comforts will your characters have to learn to do without?

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