Today, I wanted to talk about something near and dear to my heart, writing. And more specifically writing decent character development. Using one of my favorite stories to love and hate, Twilight and using one of the hottest TV shows of the time, The 100.
Have you ever read a story or began writing one where a character starts off with certain personality traits and then they go on with their story and by the end of their story they did not change, not even in the slightest. I hate these stories. One story that I think does this is Twilight. I will admit I went through a Twihard phase where I was torn between Jacob and Edward, but when I reread the story now I notice how Bella never really changed throughout the whole story. She still loves only Edward, she is still considered that awkward girl, she is still a martyr, she is still regular old Bella Swan. The only thing that changed about her was that she became a vampire. And that was really surprising to me.
How exactly did she go throughout the whole story without honestly changing her personality?
Well, that’s simple, Meyers used material character development.
Material development (and immaterial development) are terms that I have no clue where I got them, but they do explain a lot of how writers get away with not developing their characters. So here’s what I mean when I say immaterial and material character development. Material development is when authors give their characters something, be it a weapon with a lot of power, a title, a new body, etc. It is something that the character possesses.
For example, Bella becoming a vampire is an example of material character development. Another example of this could be Clarke’s title of Wanheda.
Immaterial character development is the exact opposite. The character goes through an experience that changes something about their personality or how they move throughout the world. An introduction to new ideologies and schools of philosophy is a better way to describe this I guess. Immaterial character developments are more self driven conflicts.
The 100 has several literal examples of this, Monty’s crisis in the 3rd season of killing his mother. Clarke using Lexa’s love is weakness motto to send Bellamy into Mount Weather. Prime examples of immaterial character development.
Neither type of development is better than the other. And each type of character development feeds into each other in an odd cycle. The problem with Meyers use of material character development is that she gave Bella the upgrade and then…stopped. She went no farther than that one scene where Bella almost kills a human and the human to vampire transition character development arc is nixed. (Which is really sad because I love seeing characters struggle!)
The 100 does a great job of using both types of character developments.
Some people would say I am simply categorizing the big five literary conflicts (man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. technology, etc.,) into two separate, broader terms and I suppose you can say that but this is all must me thinking out loud.
Tell me what you think!