The Element of Change

In our everyday lives, things happen. Life is not static, unless you are dead, so when you write, your characters must be doing things.

There are two types of change: external and internal.

In external change, the character moves, either by choice or by necessity. For example, she walks down the hall to change into something more comfortable, or he opens the refrigerator and takes out hamburger he’s going to turn into a meatloaf. She drives down the street, heading to work, keeping an eye out for random dogs, cats or kids that might step into danger. He climbs up four flights of stairs to get to his apartment, carrying a basket of clean laundry.

External change is important as it allows us to see characters in motion, doing things that ordinary, or not so ordinary people do. At the end of a scene involving external change, we expect the character to be in a new, different place.

Internal change is the stuff of emotions. Something happens and your character reacts by getting angry, crying, withdrawing. For example, the teenager wants to go to a school dance, but the parents say no. The teen stomps off, shouting obscenities and slamming doors. She hides in her room crying and pouting, but as time passes, she realizes that she had forgotten that today was her grandmother’s 90th birthday and the family was going to see her. The teen calms down, returns to the family room, and apologizes.

During the course of this scene we have seen anger, rebellion, meditation, thoughtful remorse and apologetic behavior. The teen is a different person than she was at the beginning.

Internal change is the most powerful form of change, for it allows the reader to feel the emotions that the character is experiencing. We see into the character’s mind and heart, feel along with him, and then root for change, which may or may not be the change we would like to see.

External change is the easiest to write, while internal the more challenging.

Your task is to write a scene in which the character experiences both types of change. Don’t worry about the significance of the change. It doesn’t have to be mind-altering or permanent. It needs to be important and we must feel, at the conclusion, that something of significance has occurred.

Have fun with this one!

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